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Ready, set, ski -- these resorts in California and Colorado are already open or will be soon

Oct. 29, 2021
9 min read
Long shot of Westin Mammoth with snow and trees
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Chomping at the bit to get back on the slopes? The lifts have already started spinning at some of the best ski resorts in the U.S. in Colorado and California. And the promise of early-season snow dumps even inspired resorts like California's Mammoth Mountain to throw open their doors weeks earlier than their norm.

If you're looking for tips on booking a ski trip this season, getting an early start is a good one.

When the snowfall cooperates, early-season skiing can be some of the best there is, with cheaper hotel rates and crowd-free slopes where the corduroy and powder stashes can pretty much feel like they're for you and yours alone, especially compared to peak season.

Read on for some of the ski mountains that are already open -- or opening imminently — then scour airfares, press "complete purchase" and make some mountain magic happen.

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Mammoth Mountain

(Photo courtesy of The Westin Monache Resort, Mammoth)

After the second-snowiest October on record, Mammoth Mountain is throwing open its doors to skiers and snowboarders for the season before the first boo of Halloween this year, on Oct. 29, 2021, a full two weeks earlier than usual this season.

The favorite California mountain received more than two feet of snow earlier this week (on Oct. 25), so you can count on pretty prime conditions to kick off what’s hopefully heralding an epic winter.

And remember, using points and miles can help defray a ski vacation.

Among the hotels to set your sights on for a stay near Mammoth are the Westin Monache Resort Mammoth, a Category 7 Marriott Bonvoy property in Mammoth Lakes, where overnight stays will cost you between 50,000 and 70,000 points per night.

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Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe

About 30 miles from Reno, Nevada, in the Carson Range, the small (just seven chair lifts) but mighty (1,800 vertical feet) Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe is opening November 12, 2021, following major capital improvements made this summer to the resort’s snowmaking infrastructure.

The resort’s base village lies at over 8,200 feet, with everything from total beginner runs to expert runs and terrain parks on tap for skiers and riders.

When it comes to where to stay, the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa & Casino is waterfront in Lake North Tahoe, about 11 miles south of the mountain. And Reno abounds with budget options, too — among them many Marriott Bonvoy properties — including the Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel & Spa, a Category 5 Marriott Bonvoy property where you can stay for between 30,000 and 40,000 points per night.

Palisades Tahoe

Palisades Tahoe (Photo by stockphoto52/Getty Images)

The largest ski resort in the Lake Tahoe region, Palisades Tahoe also runs the longest ski and snowboard season in the area and is opening at one of the earliest times in the mountain's long history, on Oct. 29, 2021, thanks to three feet of recent snowfall in the upper mountains (this is only one of three October openings recorded during the resort's 72 years of operation). The insane terrain at the beloved Northern California resort that's been luring snow-lovers for over 70 years with more than 6,000 skiable acres spread across two spectacular mountains.

Note that the resort, formerly known as Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, changed its name to Palisades Tahoe earlier this year as its former name was considered derogatory to Native Americans.

After Halloween weekend, Palisades Tahoe will be open weekends only in November (weather and conditions permitting) until the season's official full-time opening day, scheduled for Nov. 24, 2021.

Boreal Mountain

Located in Soda Springs, California, 28 miles northwest of Lake Tahoe, Boreal Mountain (also known as Boreal/Woodward) just announced its earliest opening in a decade. The lifts start spinning Oct. 29, 2021.

The 380-acre resort is one of the best values in the area (there are staggered prices depending on what time of day you hit the mountain), with 41 trails, seven chair lifts, two magic carpets for beginners and a tubing park, too.

You can ski or ride here from opening day through the first weekend, and then Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. thereafter until the resort fully opens to seven days a week, from Nov. 19, 2021.

Wolf Creek Ski Area

Open since Oct. 16, 2021, Wolf Creek Ski Area in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, is off to a super snowy start (on October 26, 2021, the resort received six new inches of snow atop earlier snowfall).

The majority of the mountain’s terrain, accessed by 10 chair lifts, is rated intermediate. And the longest run, Navajo Trail, winds for a full two miles.

You can stay at hotels on the east or west side of the resort in the towns of Pagosa Springs, South Fork and Creede, with a range of Homes and Villas by Marriott properties in the mix, too.

Keystone

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

A favorite Colorado ski mountain less than two hours west of Denver International Airport, the popular Vail Resorts mountain, Keystone, which is actually three mountains plus some killer bowls, started turning its lifts on Oct. 22, 2021 (roughly two weeks earlier than it opened last year).

In Colorado's famed Summit County, the mountain has terrain for all types but offers the most variety and options for intermediate and advanced skiers, with over 3,000 vertical feet and 128 runs to explore (when fully open).

Cash in World of Hyatt Points to stay at the recently remodeled Hyatt Place Keystone, where the 103 rooms include one-bedroom suites and the hotel's free shuttle can bring you to Lakeside Village and River Run to access the gondola and lifts.

Arapahoe Basin

(Photo courtesy of Arapahoe Basin Ski Area)

If you want to be first in and last out, Colorado's longest ski season awaits at Arapahoe Basin, around the corner from Keystone and less than 100 miles from Denver International Airport. The mountain opened Oct. 17, 2021 and will remain so into June 2022.

Fans of A-Basin love it for its rustic and hardcore appeal (you're hardly in Aspen here). The resort was founded in 1946 by World War II veterans and Olympic skiers and started from very humble beginnings, with just a single tow rope up the hill.

Today, more than 1,800 acres of skiable terrain and 147 trails (half of which are considered "most difficult") await at what's considered a skier's mountain if ever there was one. More than six inches of snow have fallen at A-Basin since Oct. 25, so the season is off to a promising start.

Loveland Ski Area

Last year's opening day at Loveland (Photo courtesy of Colorado Ski Country)

Perched atop the Continental Divide, Loveland Ski Area is one of the closest ski resorts to Denver, with Denver International Airport just 61 miles away. And according to weather reports about the snowiest destinations to visit this winter, it's likely to be one of the next Colorado resorts to open for the season.

TPG called the Loveland ticket office on Oct. 28, 2021, and was told the official opening date remains Nov.19, but that the mountain has had "nonstop snow" and is likely to open to skiers and snowboarders as early as this weekend.

The announcement will be made via the resort's social media accounts and website, so stay tuned for imminent information there. When you're ready to ski, it's easy enough to base in downtown Denver, just an hour south of the mountain.

Vail

Vail, Colorado (Photo byKruck20/Getty Images)

With the calendar marked for Nov. 12, 2021, Vail's planned opening this season will be one of the resort's earliest on record. And things are looking promising when it comes to the white stuff.

The behemoth Colorado resort has already seen 21 inches of snowfall this season and reports an 18-inch base. In the seven days leading up to Oct. 28, 2021, 15 inches of snow fell on the mountain.

It all bodes well for the planned opening to take place in a place that rarely disappoints skiers and snowboarders. After all, Vail has over 5,300 acres of skiable terrain, a whopping 31 chair lifts plus 195 runs and insane terrain parks to explore.

Consider making the new Hythe, A Luxury Collection Resort, Vail, your Vail base. The reborn Marriott property underwent over $40 million in renovations and is opening Nov. 10, 2021, for the 2021/2022 season.

TPG received confirmation from a publicist representing Marriott that the property will remain Category 7 for redemptions throughout the full winter season, with stays going for between 50,000 and 70,000 points per night -- a terrific value for a luxury resort just steps from the gondola.

Utah news

If you're wondering what's going on in Utah, there are several ski resorts that will be opening after mid-November but before Thanksgiving, including Brian Head Resort, Solitude Mountain Resort, Park City, Woodward Park City, Alta and Snowbasin Resort.

Skiers, make your move.

Featured image by SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

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  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023