With a La Niña winter on the horizon (forecast: snow), it's time to wax the skis and dust off the snowboard. Here's what's new at the region's biggest ski resorts—and when they plan to turn on the ski lifts this year.
Status: Plan to open on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24 Open, all lifts running (with some weekday exceptions)
What's new: More glades. Over the summer, many trees at the Rainier-area ski resort were trimmed to allow for more forest skiing, particularly around the runs along Exterminator, Right Angle Ridge, and Niagaras. The base lodge has a new 40-foot umbrella with built-in heaters on the patio for breaks, and a live music series begins on Saturdays in January. Also, the RV area has more hookups and there's new furniture in the lodge. The mountain has some snow and is making more.
Status: Plan to open Dec. 2 Summit West open, more areas to open after more snowfall
The closest ski area to Seattle added multiple carpet lifts this year, in areas like the learning zone at Summit West and the tubing center. Snoqualmie also purchased three new PistenBully groomers, added more light towers at Alpental for night skiing, and completely refurbished the main restaurant level in the Central Lodge at Summit Central. On January 6, the resort will attempt to set the world record for the largest multi-venue ski/snowboard lesson ever taught. The event is strictly for beginners at least 13 years or older. The resort still needs at least two more feet of snow to open.
Status: Plan to open sometime Thanksgiving weekend Open, 7/10 lifts running
Highway 2's resort invested $1.9 million on parking improvements this summer, adding a new parking lot that holds more than 250 cars, adding 90 spots to the older lots, and filling in potholes. The resort also purchased two new vans to help shuttle guests to and from parking lots. Other additions include a new snow gun for building up learning terrain and two new snow cats to improve maintenance. Starting in January, a weekly Saturday concert series plays the Fuzzy Goggle pub; headliners include the Head and the Heart and the Staxx Brothers. Once night skiing begins in March, the music will be heard on the slopes after dark. The resort will also host celebrations for the Lunar New Year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January, and a Pride event in early March.
Status: Opens Nov. 24 Open, 24/37 lifts running
It's been a notable fall for North America's top-rated ski resort: Vail Resorts acquired Whistler Blackcomb in October. That means that holders of the multi-resort Epic Pass can ski the mountain along with days at Park City, Vail, Keystone, and more. There's new dining around Whistler and sister mountain Blackcomb, including an Ollie's Grilled Cheese at Olympic Station. Roundhouse Lodge expanded by 250 heated patio seats. When it comes to the skiing itself, the resort boasts two new carpet lifts, seven new grooming cats, and 45 new low energy snow guns in learning and base areas. The North Face will also hold women-only weekend ski camps through the winter.
Status: Plan to open sometime Thanksgiving weekend Open, all lifts running
The lodge at Heather Meadows underwent a summer renovation to expose the original timber from the '60s and install new carpet, and will host live Music on the Mountain once a week throughout the winter. On December 17, the mountain holds its Baker Beacon Rally, which teaches basic search techniques including beacon, shovel, and probe use. The day includes practices, demos, and a beacon rescue race. Lifts open Thanksgiving weekend if there's more snow; they currently have nine inches but need 18.
Status: Plan to open Nov. 25 Open, all lifts running
As a way to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year, Mission Ridge is offering a Freedom Pass for inexperienced skiers. The $129 ticket includes unlimited beginner lessons, unlimited beginner lift access, and unlimited rentals for the 2016-17 season. Mission Ridge also partnered with Lithic Skis to create a set of skis to commemorate the semi-centennial anniversary. The skis are handcrafted in nearby Pashastin and have designs depicting the mountain.
Status: Season opens Nov. 25 Open, 3/10 lifts running; Cloudchaser and others to open after Dec 10
New lift alert! The central Oregon skiing area added its first new chairlift since 1996. The new four-person Cloudchaser is located in the southeast portion of the mountain and adds 635 acres of additional lift-served terrain—more than six miles of groomed runs—to make Bachelor the fifth largest ski area in the United States.
Updated December 5, 2016