Get Ready to Ski: Your guide to Wyoming slope openings

While some look forward to the shopping the weekend after Thanksgiving, snow-enthusiasts eagerly await the traditional opening of many of Wyoming’s ski areas.

It is often Wyoming’s big resorts, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Alta’s Grand Targhee, that get the national recognition, and for good reason; deep snow, lots of terrain and challenges for expert-level skiers.

But, when planning your ski days this winter don’t forget your local hills that boast short lift lines and other perks, such as free tickets for senior citizens (see Sleeping Giant, Hogadon and Snowy Range ski areas).

As for what this season will offer, no one is sure. After years of hearing about El Nino and La Nina, this year a neutral winter is expected, said Charles Baker, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Riverton. What exactly is a neutral winter? Well no one is entirely certain about that, either, he said.

So do your best snow dance and think like ski area owners — positive — and get your skis and snowboards out. Here’s your round-up of Wyoming’s ski areas and what they offer. Opening dates are tentative depending on snow and some might only partially open. Rates listed are for full days and could be adjusted if areas aren’t fully open.

Grand Targhee is one of Wyoming’s ski areas scheduled to open this week. (Photo Courtesy Grand Targhee).

Grand Targhee

Expected Opening Day: Nov. 23

Operating hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

About the resort: Grand Targhee’s defining characteristic is the snow, said Ken Rider, director sales and marketing at the ski area.

“Mother Nature is our biggest snow gun,” he said.

Even last year when most ski areas struggled, Grand Targhee got more than 400 inches, Rider said. It also boasts more than 2,000 acres of terrain, while maintaining a small, family-friendly feel, he said.

“It’s a pretty special place,” Rider said.

What’s new: Long leases for kids equipment and multi-week lessons for kids 3 and a half to 12 years old held on weekends.

Ticket cost: $69 for adults 13 to 64 years old, $44 seniors 65 years old and older, $29 juniors kids 6 to 12 years old, Free for kids five years old and younger.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

Expected Opening Day: Nov. 24

Operating hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

About the resort: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort was recently ranked No. 1 in character, most challenging terrain and overall satisfaction by “Ski Magazine,” said Anna Cole, communications director with Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. The resort is known for its vast and challenging terrain, as well as its access to Grand Teton national Park, the town of Jackson and the National Elk Refuge, Cole said. Visitors can get a full vacation experience with a trip to the resort, she said.

What’s new: The Casper lift, which provides access to several intermediate runs, was replaced with a high speed quad chair. Instead of the 10 minutes it used to take to the get to the top of the area, the new quiet lift will now take just three and a half minutes, Cole said.

“It’s really going to up the mountain or intermediates,” Cole said.

This summer the resort also groomed a new line underneath the lift called Sundog. Staff also decided to move the race course in the area to off the Apres Vous lift, Cole said.

Ticket cost: $99 15 years old and older, $79 seniors 65 years and older, $59 junior 14 years old and younger. Prices vary during the time of the year and discounts are available if bought online.

Sleeping Giant

Expected opening day: Nov. 24

Operating hours: 9:30 to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday and on some holidays

About the resort: This ski area is “sleepy, like the name says,” said general manager Jon Reveal. The small ski area has three lifts and caters to families and children. “This is a place to learn a life sport,” Reveal said. Known as a locals’ hill, people from nearby communities, like Cody, staff the resort and the slopes provide a place for people to see their neighbors, Reveal said.

Ticket cost: $30 adults 19 to 69 years old, $24 youth 13 to 18 years old, $14 children 6 to 12 years old, kids younger than 6 years old and seniors ski free.

Meadowlark Ski Lodge

Expected opening date: Nov. 24

Operating Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday

About the resort: Meadowlark Ski Lodge’s lift tops out at 9,500-feet in the Big Horn Mountains and provides Wyoming’s best hidden powder stash, said Wayne Jones, owner.

The area’s employees have been making turns on the hill since Oct. 5.

The hill’s 300 acres is known for quality snow and consistent conditions. Access to Meadowlark Lake provides easy and unlimited snowmaking capabilities if needed, Jones said. The mountain’s 15 runs attracts novice and intermediate skiers and has several expert trails. There are free beginner ski and snowboard lessons 9 to noon every Sunday.

Ticket cost: $42 adults 18 years old and older, $35 students 13 to 17 years old, $25 children 6 to 12 years old and free for kids under 5 years old with an adult.

White Pine

Expected opening day: Dec.1

Operating times: 9 to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday and open two weeks around Christmas and for some holidays like Martin Luther King Day.

About the resort: Located near Pinedale the ski area is meant to be a place for families, said Dale Hill, one of the owners. After being closed last season, people are eager to have the hill back open. The resort has already sold more season passes than it did during the 2010-2011 season, Hill said.

What’s new: It’s open. White Pine opened for the 2010-2011 season after the Citizens to Save White Pine bought the ski area from Wind River Resort. There also will be several new ski races and a hill climb this year, Hill said.

Ticket cost: $39 for adults 17 to 69 years old, $29 for youth 7 to 15 years old and seniors 70 and older, $5 kids 6 and younger.

Snowy Range Ski and Recreation Area

Expected opening day: Dec. 1

Operating Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

About the resort: With five lifts and 27 trails located near Centennial, Snowy Range Ski and Recreation Area isn’t big, but it is convenient, said Aaron Maddox, general manager and owner. The ski area is more affordable than big resorts making it a great place to take the family. Oh and seniors 70 years old and older ski free. The area averages about 250 inches of natural snow fall a year and has recently increased its snow making capacity. “We’re making an amazing amount of snow this year,” Maddox said.

What’s new: More ski school programming for kids including multi-week weekend ski camps.

Ticket cost: $43 adults (18 to 69 years old), $37 teens (13 to 17 years old), $26 children (5 to 12 years old), seniors and kids under 5 free

Snow King

Expected Opening Day: Dec. 8

Operating Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday

About the resort: “We’re the town hill,” said manager Adam Shankland, Mountain Operations Manager at the Jackson mountain. “The town ends and the ski area begins.”

The ski area has a retro old-fashioned feel, but a steep face that rises 1,550 feet for advanced skiers, Shankland said.

New this year: Night skiing will stay open until 7 p.m. this year and is included in the cost of a day pass Tuesday through Saturday.

Ticket cost: $42 adult, $25 for 7 to 13 year olds and those older than 65.

Hogadon

Expected opening day: Sometime in early December. “The sun is out and its warm and people are still riding their bicycles,” said manager Tom Spangler.

Operating hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday

About the resort: Just a few minutes from Casper, the small resort provides easy access to Casper residents who support the small ski area, Spangler said.

What’s new: New ski school programs for those wanting to learn the sport.

Ticket cost: $40 adult, $35 youth 13 to 18 years old, $27 child 5 to 12 years old, $32 65 to 69 years old, free for those older than 70 or younger than 5 years old.

— “Peaks to Plains” is a blog focusing on Wyoming’s outdoors and communities. Kelsey Dayton is a freelance writer based in Lander. She has been a journalist in Wyoming for seven years, reporting for the Jackson Hole News & Guide, Casper Star-Tribune and the Gillette News-Record. Contact Kelsey at kelsey.dayton@gmail.com.

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Kelsey Dayton

Kelsey Dayton is a freelancer and the editor of Outdoors Unlimited, the magazine of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. She has worked as a reporter for the Gillette News-Record, Jackson Hole News&Guide...

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