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The mornings are filled with darkness as that sweet smell of bitter cold hangs in the pre-dawn air. It may be a cliché stemming from 21st century television, but it’s the truth:

Winter is coming.

If you’re like us, you’re more than ready to trade in your hiking boots for skis. And with the prediction of a strong El Nino, the 2015-16 ski season could be right off the top shelf. So sharpen those edges, wax those boards, and get ready for some early-season shredding!

6. Killington, Vermont

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Taken October 18, 2015. PHOTO: Killington Resort

Nicknamed the Beast of the East, Killington is known for being among the first to kick start each season. In fact, the resort opened this year on October 18, grabbing the title of being the first in North America. Killington’s average annual snowfall of 250 inches, plus a sophisticated snowmaking system, gives the resort the capacity to cover 80 acres with 12 inches of fresh snow in an hour’s time. View Killington lift tickets.

5. Timberline, Oregon

5 Best Resorts for Early Season Skiing

PHOTO: Will Rochfort at Instagram.com/TwoMillstones

Last season notwithstanding, Timberline is historically the best resort for year-round skiing in the lower 48. Typical seasons crank up in early November and frequently stretch into Memorial Day weekend. And summer skiing? They have that too, thanks to the glacier on Mt. Hood. And while photographic evidence suggests the glacier is shrinking, we’ll still hedge our bets on early-season snow at Timberline. View Oregon lift tickets.

4. Sunday River, Maine

5 Best Resorts for Early Season Skiing

PHOTO: Sunday River

Sunday River is one of your best bets for pre-season skiing east of the Mississippi. They have the best snowmaking system on the East Coast, offering locals plenty of opportunities to slide on the white stuff.

This year, Sunday River kicked off the East Coast ski season on Monday, October 19 – the earliest the resort has opened in almost 20 years. Starting at 9 AM, the resort plans to open on the upper T2 trail, accessible via the Locke Mountain Triple lift in Barker Basin. Check out Sunday River’s website for the most up-to-date information. View Sunday River lift tickets.

3. Arapahoe Basin, Colorado

5 Best Resorts for Early Season Skiing

PHOTO: Arapahoe Basin

With a base elevation of 10,780 feet, Arapahoe Basin (or A-Basin, as locals call it) is always in the mix to be the first resort to open for the season. With opening day typically scheduled in October, it will likely be manmade stuff. But as long as we can get our skis on some snow, we’re not complaining. (It’s usually in great shape by December.) View Arapahoe Basin lift tickets.

2. Lake Louise, Canada

5 Best Resorts for Early Season Skiing

PHOTO: Ski Big 3

Located in the Canadian Rockies, Lake Louise is the only non-American resort in this group, but she holds the title with pride. A magnet for early-season dumps, Lake Louise typically opens in early November. Unlike some of the other resorts, Louise’s pre-season snow is quality: the resort hosts World Cup races in late November. View Banff-Lake Louise-Sunshine lift tickets.

1. Loveland, Colorado

5 Best Resorts for Early Season Skiing

PHOTO: Loveland Ski Area

Starting snowmaking operations in late September, Loveland is always a contender in the race to open. And truthfully, it is frequently the winner: it has been the first mountain in the country to open eight out of the past thirteen ski seasons. And while quantity of runs may not be prime on opening day, Loveland makes up for it with quality. Opening day always boasts one top-to-bottom run with 1,000 vertical feet. View Loveland lift tickets.

Where will you be heading once the snow starts falling?

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Sub-Categories liftopia / More Snowsports / North America / Ski / Ski & Snowboard / Snow & Weather / Snowboard / Travel
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