There’s usually a friendly “competition” between a few usual suspects (ahem, Loveland, A-Basin, and a few others) to see which North American ski area will open first. Winning the title is a matter of pride and a great marketing tool to get people primed for the upcoming winter when that’s probably the furthest thing from their minds.
This year, the official first ski area to open in North America is Wild Mountain/Taylor Falls, Minnesota, which thanks to an early snowfall and unseasonably cold temps, opened on October 7 (no stranger to early snow, Wild Mountain also took this title 20 years ago with their October 18, 1992 opener).
Does it count?
About an hour outside of the urban shred mecca of Minneapolis, Wild Mountain is like most midwestern ski areas: a few hundred vertical feet spanning a hundred acres or so and a commuter lot. Some purists might say this doesn’t count, for any number of reasons (it’s not a “resort”, they might have to close intermittently so they’re not really open, it’s not big enough, two trails and a rope tow doesn’t count, etc…) the same way they called shenanigans on LVSSR’s “weekends only” open last year. After all, the major resorts out West boast terrain parks bigger than these molehills that us midwesterners call “home”.
But I say open is open. Wild Mountain is not located in Colorado’s Front Range at vertiginous altitudes like perennial favorites Loveland or Arapahoe Basin. They’ve got ropes and bullwheels spinning, and paying customers ready to take advantage of even a few open trails, three weeks before Halloween. If only skiers and snowboarders everywhere could get this stoked to shred so little.
Why it’s important:
Sure, there’s a lot of luck involved; without early snow and cold temps this wouldn’t have happened for Wild Mountain, but if your aunt had a dick she’d be your uncle, so there’s that. Sure, they got a little bit lucky, but in the end the fact that a tiny midwestern ski area is willing to fire up the guns while baseball is still being played, and can occasionally steal this title from the big boys out west is all the more significant. It speaks volumes about their commitment to skiing, snowboarding, winter recreation, and giving their customers the absolute most they can give.
Kudos to Wild Mountain/Taylor Falls for officially kicking off the 2012/2013 Winter Season in North America, even though “Fall” is only a few weeks old!
Think Snow, everyone. Your local ski area will hopefully be opening soon, too.