Winter hasn't officially started, but ski resorts are opening much earlier than normal. Snowshoe Resort opened last weekend after 38 inches of natural snow fell during the prior week.
Some resorts, like Massanutten, don't receive that much snow in a year. Average snowfall for the Virginia resort is about 30 inches. Therefore, they rely on the cold temperatures to allow production of artificial snow.
Temperatures have been below normal for more than a week in the Valley, which allowed places like Massanutten to start its snow machines, which it did last week.
Massanutten Resort is still making history this season with its earliest opening since the resort opened in 1973. Workers have been snow making since November 16 and are planning to continue into opening day on November 28.
Steve Showalter is the Ski Area General Manager for Massanutten and says the early snow making has peaked interest in residents near and far.
"Because of the early start of snow making, people have come out and purchased their season passes a little earlier than they have in the past. When it's warm, they don't think about it, but when it's cold and we're making snow, they come out and buy passes earlier and we've seen a big increase this year so far," says Showalter.
While previous winters have started off cold, none have started off this cold, this early. However the weather is too unpredictable to make a prediction about Winter 2008-2009.
Showalter says, "The last couple of winters have been a challenge. You know, we got early starts both of those years but it did warm up around the Christmas holidays and we had a few warm up spells, but hopefully this winter starts out cold and will stay cold all winter long."
With residents taking vacations closer to home because of the economy, local resorts could have a fantastic season.
"I think the double combination of the early start and people wanting to spend their dollars a little closer to home will certainly help the local resorts," says Showalter.
Showalter says that every property rented out by the resort is booked for the holidays. This time of year usually accounts for 25 to 35 percent of a resort's revenue. Therefore opening Thanksgiving weekend is a big plus for resorts.
Mother nature is lending a helping hand this year. Not only have temperatures been cold enough for snow making, but natural snow also fell Tuesday. A dusting covered the ski slopes that already had a three foot base from 125 hours of snow making since last week.
Kelly Maldonado and her family are visiting from Orlando, Florida. She says the family is excited that the resort is opening early and they're planning to go tubing this weekend. For her, Tuesday's snowfall was a surprise.
"I was not expecting the snow. I was expecting the cold, but we weren't prepared for the snow that's for sure, but it's a pleasant surprise," says Maldonado.
The resort plans to open five of its 14 trails on Saturday, along with the snow tubing park. Lift tickets are currently available under early season rates.