FARMINGTON — Thirty inches of snow fell on parts of the Four Corners over the past week, leading to great early season ski and snowboard conditions.
Local resorts, such as Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort and Telluride Ski Resort, open this week. After the recent snowfall, officials expect the best opening days in years.
"We are looking at one of the best early season conditions we have seen in a long time," said Telluride Ski Area Communications Manager Tom Watkinson.
Snow from storms in early November allowed crews to establish a solid base, and the latest storm has increased Purgatory's midway base depth from 24 inches to 41. The resort is scheduled to open Friday.
"Our mountain operations crew has been track packing the natural snow, as well as making new snow to establish a solid base," said Kim Oyler, director of communications at Durango Mountain Resort. "This year, we added new snow-making equipment to the front side of the mountain with the goal of opening Lift 1 for opening day."
In recent years, the small, two-person Chair 4, named Twilight Lift, was the first to open for Purgatory. The new equipment and natural snow has allowed Purgatory to open the Purgatory Village Express six-person, high-speed chair weeks earlier than normal.
"Purgatory will have top to bottom skiing on the front side with Lifts 1 and 2 operating," Oyler said. "Everything on the front side is open, except for Ambassador's Glade. Pitchfork Terrain Park will also be open with a few small rails and boxes set up."
Purgatory will close again on Monday, Dec. 2, so more snow-making can be done. The mountain operations crew hopes to reopen the resort for skiing on Dec. 6, if Mother Nature allows, Oyler said.
Telluride plans on having Chair No. 4, the Village Express lift, turning on Thanksgiving. Watkinson expects four or five trails to be open.
Crews at Telluride are working to create snow at the base for the best possible conditions.
"All this recent snow has been great. It is going to expedite our ability to open terrain at the beginning of the season," Watkinson said. "We still have some trouble areas down low that don't have the accumulation we need, and more snow-making needs to happen to have sustainable slopes throughout the season. Our crews are cranking to get the amount of man-made snow on other areas to make it work."
New Mexico ski areas Ski Santa Fe and Taos Ski Valley are also opening on Thanksgiving. Taos will have three lifts open, while Ski Santa Fe will have 90 percent of its terrain accessible on opening day thanks to a 27-inch base. It is first time since 2002 Ski Santa Fe will be open for Thanksgiving skiing.
On the company's Facebook page, Taos Ski Valley resident Elisabeth Brownell wrote, "This is the most snow we have ever had so early in the ski valley."
The closest ski area to Farmington, Hesperus Ski Area, also opens Friday with a 20-inch base and packed-powder conditions. Hesperus will be open weekends only until sometime in December when night skiing will return.
"We are calling it 'White Friday' because of the snowfall, not Black Friday," said Hesperus Manager Brian Armstrong in a prepared statement.
Discounted lift tickets will be available through mid-December at Telluride, Taos, Purgatory and Santa Fe. Lift tickets at Purgatory will be $55 for adults. Telluride passes will be $69, and Taos' tickets are $55 at the window.
Wolf Creek ski area in Pagosa Springs, Colo., a local favorite, opened in mid-October and has already surpassed 100 inches of snowfall this season. The entire mountain is open with a midway depth of 62 inches.
It will still take a while for the rest of the nearby ski areas to reach mid-season form, but winter has certainly come early to the Four Corners.
"It is going to be great. It is going to take a bit of time, but not nearly as much time as the past," Watkinson said.