Sports News: Early season under way – Boston Herald



Mother Nature won’t be a turkey this Thanksgiving. Thanks to an extended cold snap partnered with the amazing snowmaking technology most eastern resorts have, you can grab your gear and work off those holiday carbs by carving on the slopes.

The ski season has officially begun. In the past week, more than a few resorts have opened for business, and more are lined up in the coming days.

And while you may not be skiing in the trees or on every trail on the mountain yet, you can get out and have a great time in the crisp winter air.

If the crowds at the recent Country Ski & Sport ( ski show and sale are any indication, there’s a lot of folks very ready to get out there and make this season happen.

Where are the best spots for early season, and what should you expect? Here’s a rundown.

Vermont is doing particularly well with early season openings this year, with Killington (where the World Cup takes place Thanksgiving weekend), Sugarbush Resort and Stowe Mountain Resort are up and running. Bolton Valley, Bromley Mountain, Jay Peak, Smugglers’ Notch, and Stratton Mountain Resort will open on Nov. 25, and Burke joins the ranks on Nov. 26.

In New Hampshire, Bretton Woods starting spinning the lifts on Nov. 19. Sunapee plans on opening Nov. 23, and Cranmore Mountain Resort will debut their winter season on Nov. 25. Other resorts are slated to come on line by early December – but the cold snap may bring a few surprise earlier openings. Check your resort websites or www.skinh.com for updates.

In Maine, perennial early (and late) season favorites Sugarloaf and Sunday River opened Nov. 18.

Other resorts in those states and in Massachusetts will be opening in the coming two weeks as well.

What will you find this early in the season? While some years we get early bonus snow, this year in these early days you should expect mostly man-made on a limited amount of trails. That may mean less choices on how to go down each run, but it won’t mean shoddy snow: resorts have been pouring millions into snowmaking for years now, and it shows. Plus, the technology has advanced to not just make better-feeling snow, but to do so with less of an impact on the environment.

Most open resorts should be pretty much up and running when it comes to rental shops and base lodge food, but you may want to give them a call or check their website the day before you head out just to be sure you don’t need to pack a tuna sandwich and bottles of water. (Or whatever you like to nosh on ski and ride days).

Ski schools will be operating, and I’ve long found early season to be a great time to take lessons. Since there is less terrain to choose from, using it to focus on skills makes sense (you won’t be hankering to get to the rest of the mountain).

Early season skiing can be anything from a narrow slat of white surrounded by brown (not the case at all thanks to this cold snap), to an amazing mid-winter like powder day in those years we get lucky.

This week, you’ll find some pretty great conditions on limited trails, and plenty of white in your view, since a few smaller snowstorms have blanketed the woods, trees and side areas with white already. Not enough to ski the trees, but enough to amp up the beauty of your day.

Early skiing season is a great time to test out some new gear (it’s not too late to add something to your holiday wish list). Make the investment in getting some demo gear to test out. If you can, use a slopeside rental shop (most resorts have a decent amount of demos on hand), so you can swap out and try a few different types during your day. It’s a great use of an early season day and again, makes the somewhat limited terrain more useful,

You’ll also want to check in on the basic rules of your resort of choice this year. There could now be a fee for parking and, in some cases, a requirement to book tickets ahead of time. Purchasing ahead of time is smart anyway, since the savings can border on incredible. If you’re planning on skiing and riding more than a few days, it’s still not too late to purchase multiday tickets at discount prices.

The Ikon Mountain Four-Day session pass ( is an excellent example of locked in savings but fluidity of where and when to use them. There are blackout dates (including the Christmas holiday week), so read carefully. But at $519 for four days, it’s a decent discount.

Epic Pass (www.epicpass) has multi-day passes too, from two to seven days, and by choosing wisely (if you don’t mind limiting where you can go), you can get your day skiing price down to as little as $40.

Local passes for the season are still on sale as well. At spots like Ragged Mountain Resort in Danbury, you can grab a “Mission Four’Dable” four pack, giving you access to four ski days any time all season, for just $259. That sale ends Nov. 28 so now is the time to purchase. You can learn more at www.raggedmountainresort.com.

There’s one more huge bonus to early season skiing: You get out there sooner and back into that winter paradise we all love. It’s like an early holiday gift.

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