winter travel

Before the real snow hits the trails, the deals do

A skier busts along early season snow at Sunday River in Newry, Maine. Photos courtesy of Sunday River.
A skier busts along early season snow at Sunday River in Newry, Maine. Photos courtesy of Sunday River.

Snowmaking is king for pre-Christmas skiing, allowing several resorts to open before turkeys are carved on Thanksgiving. As ski areas roll out their openings into December with limited terrain and often brown woods along the trails, lower lift ticket and ski-and-stay package prices greet snow lovers.

With snowmaking guns blazing 24/7 when temperatures permit, it’s good planning to wear goggles. Also, look out for snow whales, those humps of snow that will be groomed later.

Trail counts are a crapshoot and early season lift ticket prices reflect this. Typically, mega-resort Sunday River in Newry, Maine, can have between 35 and 80 trails open before Christmas, says communications director Sarah Devlin. “Early season, our tickets are lower than our peak season rate, which is $89, so you’ll save some money coming up before Christmas.”


Areas like Pats Peak in Henniker, N.H., may offer midweek rates on the weekends depending on what’s open.

Early storms are welcome.

Last season, southern Vermont’s Mount Snow opened with terrain for all abilities across two mountain faces.

“By Dec. 21, the mountain was 99 percent open, and early-season deals were still being offered, as they will be for the coming winter season,” wrote marketing manager Dave Meeker.

Use those vacation days now for the best pre-Christmas specials. Stratton’s One Nighter is two days on the slopes and one night’s lodging at the basic Liftline Lodge for $199 — or $238 for the remodeled Black Bear Lodge (1-800-STRATTON, Sleep at Mount Snow’s economic Snow Lake Lodge Dec. 13-25 and ski and stay for $69 per person (800-245-7669, Okemo’s Third Night Free offer is straightforward. Buy two nights at regular rates and get a third night free at one of Okemo’s lodging options before Christmas (866-706-5366,

Sugarbush offers its Valley Ski and Ride Week Dec. 14-18, five days of instruction at Lincoln Peak designed to get skiers and riders 18 and older to the next level (888-651-4827,


Killington Road’s Mountain Sports Inn serves November Big K deals starting with a two-day, two-night midweek stay at $73 per person, per night, double occupancy, including lift tickets and breakfast (888-422-3315, Stowe’s in-town Green Mountain Inn’s early season Ski, Ride & Stay Package starts at $122 per person per day with lift ticket based on double occupancy (800-253-7302,

Northern Vermont’s Smugglers’ Notch (1-800-419-4615, posts its lowest rates of the season between Dec. 4-17, starting at $99 per youth and $129 per adult per night. A bit more mellow than the prime time of winter, packages include lift tickets, indoor FunZone game center, snow tubing, and more.

Boyne Resorts — including Sunday River, Sugarloaf, and Loon — have early season ski-and-stay packages. The River’s special Thanksgiving lodging packages start at $69 per person per night, including lift ticket, Nov. 25-29, and festive Winterfest Dec. 11-13 with live music and fireworks (800-543-2754,

Loon in Lincoln, N.H., has invested more than $3 million in snowmaking over the past few years, including boosting the output on key snowmaking trails Upper Picked Rock and Lower Bear Claw, and serves up an early season $99 per person per night deal at the Mountain Club on Loon with access to the slopeside Viaggio Spa & Wellness Center facilities and lift ticket (800-229-7829,


Use the Attitash Grand Summit Hotel, with its heated pool and hot tubs in Bartlett, N.H., to ski Wildcat in Pinkham Notch, which had the state’s longest ski season last year, and Attitash (888-554-1900, Pre-Christmas ski-and-stay packages start at $89 per person, double occupancy.

Bretton Woods skiers can stay nearby at The Lodge at Bretton Woods, a comfortable motel, and take advantage of a special package offered throughout the 2015-16 season that starts at $65 per person, double occupancy, and includes two lift tickets per room per night (800-680-6600,

Central New Hampshire’s Sunapee opens with the blue waters of Lake Sunapee not quite frozen and special two-hour, $39 beginner group lessons with rentals and South Peak lift ticket for anyone 4 or older through Dec. 18. Advance online purchase only (603-763-3564,

Scan ski area websites for last-minute and advance deals, plus November frequent skier card discounts. and are good resources. Early cheap days include Mount Snow’s quick-selling $12 Founder Day tickets Dec. 12 (online only) and $35 Cares & Shares Day Dec. 13 at Sunapee with the donation of five nonperishable food items.

Then head north.

Marty Basch can be reached at