Summer may have drawn to a close, but winter brings its own set of joys: holidays with family, peppermint mochas, and, most importantly, ski season. As temperatures drop, powderhounds everywhere eagerly await opening day.

If you’re interested in turning your Thanksgiving vacation into a snow-filled ski getaway, here’s a list of some of the earliest-opening ski resorts in the U.S., as well as a few ideas for what to do in case the unthinkable happens: if you somehow manage to arrive before the snow does.

Snowbird, Utah

sunrise from Lone Peak at Snowbird
Sunrise from atop Lone Peak at Snowbird | Photo courtesy of Tom Kelly

Snowbird bills itself as having the longest ski season in Utah, and with more than 500 inches of annual snowfall, it isn’t hard to imagine why. Snowbird is one of several ski resorts in this part of Utah—its neighbors include Alta, Brighton, Solitude, Park City, and numerous others—yet Snowbird is usually the first of the bunch to start running its chairlifts.

The terrain is pretty equally divided when it comes to difficulty, so regardless of where your skill level falls on the spectrum, you’re sure to find a few suitable slopes.

In case there’s no snow…

If you arrive at Snowbird to find the peaks unadorned with snow, don’t fret—there are plenty of other activities to occupy your group. Ride the Aerial Tram up to Hidden Peak (elevation 11,000 feet) and admire breathtaking views of Salt Lake Valley, and perhaps grab a bite to eat at The Summit. Guided fly fishing trips are available year-round, and if you’re in the mood for a little pampering, the full-service Cliff Spa is definitely worth a visit.

Tour our Snowbird, Utah vacation rentals.

Mammoth Mountain, CA

winter in Mammoth Lakes
View of Mammoth Lakes | Photo courtesy of Don Graham

This Central California ski resort saw 618 inches of snow during the 2016-2017 season, but averages about 400 inches each year. Mammoth’s 11,053-foot summit has the highest elevation of any California ski resort, and the ski season can sometimes last all the way into July. Most years, the projected opening date is the first week or two of November, and you can celebrate the official start of ski season with live music and events all weekend long.

In case there’s no snow…

Hop on the Panorama Gondola and ride up to the summit, where you’ll find the Eleven53 Interpretive Center. The center features interactive exhibits that change routinely and cover topics such as natural history, weather patterns, and geology. You’ll also enjoy sweeping views of Sierra Nevada peaks, the Minarets, the San Joaquin River Valley, and beyond. Admission is free with your gondola ticket or a lift ticket, and when you’re finished you can grab lunch at the Eleven53 Cafe.

Tour our Mammoth Lakes vacation rentals.

Timberline Lodge, OR

timberline lodge mt hood
Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood | Photo courtesy of ptjoe12000

Timberline Lodge on the slopes of Mt. Hood is the only ski resort in North America that offers skiing and snowboarding all 12 months out of the year. During the summer, skiable snow can be found in the upper ski area on Palmer Glacier. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you are), the runs that are available in the summer are expert-level, so only seasoned skiers can take advantage of Timberline Lodge’s year-round skiing. Luckily, the rest of the runs typically open in mid-November, so new and intermediate-level skiers can still plan to get in some Thanksgiving skiing.

In case there’s no snow…

Aside from the year-round ski season, Timberline Lodge has numerous other claims to fame. You might recognize the lodge (at least on the outside) from its appearance as the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. The lodge is also home to two local celebrity St. Bernards named Bruno and Heidi, who can be found assisting their handlers with official Timberline Lodge duties most days of the week. Mountaineering, hiking, mountain biking, and the Magic Mile scenic chair lift ride are all popular, non-snow-dependent pastimes.

Tour our Mt. Hood vacation rentals.

Winter Park, CO

winter park resort colorado
Winter Park Resort | Photo courtesy of Paul O’Rear

Colorado has the market cornered on world-class ski resorts, and Winter Park is no exception. The resort receives an average of 348 inches of snow each year and has the most consistent snowfall out of all of Colorado’s resorts. Of the resort’s 1,212 skiable acres, 313 acres can be covered with snowmaking machines—more than 25 percent. Even if there’s less snowfall than usual, Winter Park’s snowmaking capabilities guarantee that at least part of the resort will be open before Thanksgiving each year.

In case there’s no snow…

Weather not cooperating? Check out Winter Park’s on-site spa for a relaxing massage, or explore the mountain on four hooves with a guided horseback riding tour. Go for a hike and try to catch a glimpse of some local wildlife, or take a camera along and work on honing your photography skills. If you want a little more adrenaline, try out the zipline at Snow Mountain Ranch, 15 miles away.

Tour our Winter Park vacation rentals.

Killington, VT

North Ridge of Killington Resort
North Ridge of Killington Resort | Photo courtesy of Eklapper

Killington, otherwise referred to as “The Beast of the East,” is known for having the longest ski season on the East Coast—it’s typically the first resort to open and the last to close. The resort receives an average of 250 inches of natural snowfall each year, and its sophisticated snowmaking system covers 600 skiable acres, guaranteeing a consistent snow surface (and very happy skiers). The season can start as early as mid-October and usually lasts through late May.

In case there’s no snow…

As a year-round destination, Killington doesn’t require snow to keep guests entertained. The Alpine Tubing center lets you enjoy snow tubing all year long, while Segway and ATV tours let you explore the mountain on two or four wheels. Looking to relax? Indulge in the signature treatment of the Grand Killington Spa: a warm maple sugar scrub. There’s plenty of shopping and dining, as well as a vibrant events calendar that’s always worth checking out.

Tour our Killington rentals. 

The advent of ski season is truly a magical time, and you’ve waited long enough. Dust off your ski gear, head to one of these early-opening ski resorts, and be one of the first people down the mountain with your inaugural season run. It’s going to be the start of a beautiful ski season.

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Author: Madison Schultz

Madison grew up in western Kansas with a family that loves to travel. She is a highly accomplished roadtripper, having driven from western Kansas to Portland twice—the second time, in a moving van. Her favorite places include Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Innsbruck, Florence, York, Edinburgh, Ely, the San Juan Islands, Taos, and Lawrence.