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April 23, 2014

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Skiers hit the slopes at Mount Charleston area resort

Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort marks earliest opening ever

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Erin Dostal

Skiers and snowboarders await a beginner slope at the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort near Mount Charleston. The resort opened at noon on Wednesday, making it the second ski area in the lower 48 states to open this year.

Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort 2009 opening day

A couple of skiers chat as they ride up chairlift on the beginner hill at the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort near Mount Charleston. The resort opened at noon on Wednesday, making it the second ski area in the lower 48 states to open this year. Launch slideshow »

Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort

In the middle of the desert, it’s already ski season.

The Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort at Mount Charleston opened at noon Wednesday, making it the second ski area to open in the lower 48 United States this year.

Loveland Ski Area in northern Colorado, the first U.S. resort to open this year, started its ski season Wednesday, too, but earlier – it opened at 9 a.m.

“It feels great to tee it up with the Colorado guys,” said Craig Baldwin, base operations manager and spokesman for the resort. “This season’s gonna be good.”

Josh Beam, the slope maintenance manager for the resort, supervised the crew that worked for three 14-hour nights coating the mountainside with artificial snow. Wednesday, he sat exhausted but happy in the resort’s bar with his colleagues, sipping a Chasing Tail Golden Ale beer.

“I’ve been making snow here since I was 16, and it’s never been this early,” Beam said. “It’s one of the best openings we’ve ever had on the beginners hill.”

Even though only one beginner hill was open at the resort, dozens of Las Vegans and tourists hit the slopes Wednesday afternoon, wearing sweatshirts and snow pants, riding the chairlift and munching on hamburgers with friends.

“It’s astronomical to be skiing in Las Vegas before Thanksgiving, let alone before Halloween,” said Savanna Jason, 22, of Las Vegas. She said the snow was a little sticky, but given the circumstances: “We’ll take it.”

Daniel Marshall, 17, of Las Vegas, was equally excited to be snowboarding in October.

“It was way better than I expected,” he said, smiling. “There’s so much more snow this year.

“It’s so good to get away from the city.”

Balwin, a self-proclaimed “snow farmer in the desert,“ said the resort opened the day after Thanksgiving last year. This year marked the earliest the park had ever opened – about seven weeks earlier than normal, he said.

Baldwin said he hopes the resort’s 10 other slopes, which range from beginner to advanced, will be ready soon, but when they open will depend on the climate and customer interest.

Because it will be open longer this year than last, Baldwin is also hoping to see more profits this ski season. The resort is the only ski and snowboarding location in Southern Nevada.

The resort will be open daily this week until Sunday, and will be offering scenic tours for those who aren’t ready to hit the hill just yet, Baldwin said.

After Sunday, the resort will be open on weekends until natural snow and cold weather sets in for good. Daily lift tickets are $20.

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