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Early winter brings joy to ski resorts

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Spirit Mountain employee Bjorn Reed walks across a ski run after checking a snow cannon on Thursday, Nov. 9, at Spirit Mountain in Duluth. With lower temperatures a number of ski areas are making snow. (Steve Kuchera / Forum News Service)2 / 4
Zach Nault (left) and Bjorn Reed ride a tracked Polaris Ranger up Spirit Mountain in Duluth while checking on snow cannons on Wednesday, Nov. 9. (Steve Kuchera / Forum News Service)3 / 4
Oscar Martinez (left) and Alyssa Lommel watch to see where the snow from a snow cannon they just turned is falling on Thrusday, Nov. 9, at Spirit Mountain in Duluth. (Steve Kuchera / Forum News Service)4 / 4

DULUTH — The cold weather rolled into Duluth this week, and it seems to be here for the long run. The season of slippery roads, scraping ice and shoveling driveways can be a pain for some, but for others it's a blessing.

The vast majority of the ski resorts in the Northland began their snowmaking process early this week, with a targeted opening day looking more and more likely to be in November, something that hasn't occurred in a few years. In order for the snowmaking process to continue, temperatures need to remain below 30 degrees.

"We are most definitely stoked to see the early onset of cold air this past week," said Spirit Mountain general manager Jody Ream. "It has certainly been a number of years since we have been blessed with the sustained colder temps this early in the month of November, and we are rolling along with round-the-clock snowmaking."

The general consensus among the resorts says that the targeted opening date is about Thanksgiving weekend, with that being completely weather dependent.

"This is somewhat of a moving target and dependent on various factors," Ream said when asked about a targeted opening day. "Depending upon how all unfolds these next 48 hours or so, we could potentially see some early-season skiing and riding here very soon."

Resorts are not the only ones getting excited for the long winter.

"Nordic skiers in the Northland seem to be quite excited about this early snow," said Duluth Cross-Country Ski Club board member and communications chairman Nils Arvold. "Particularly given that for many years, there has been rarely skiable snow in the Duluth area before Thanksgiving."

Arvold said he believes the early winter is "great for the outdoor community" because it allows people to transition into snow sports earlier, rather than having an awkward season between fall and winter.

Estimated opening days

• Lutsen Mountains — Nov. 18 and 19

• Mont du Lac, Giants Ridge and Spirit Mountain — Thanksgiving weekend

• Chester Bowl — Dec. 9

• Snowflake Nordic Ski Center — 95 percent covered, already open

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