By Jayson Jacoby
No two snowflakes are identical, the saying goes, and neither, so it sometimes happens, are two early-season snowpacks at a ski area.
Take Anthony Lakes, the resort in the Elkhorn Mountains about 35 miles northwest of Baker City.
When the ski area opens Saturday morning for its 50th season, skiers and snowboarders will carve turns atop a base of snow that general manager Peter Johnson deems "fantastic."
Although the resort's opening comes two weeks later than officials had hoped, the snow, despite its tardiness, is the ideal sort for making a long-lasting and stable base for the dry powder that's supposed to start falling later this week.
This early snow has been relatively wet and heavy, Johnson said.
That's not the best kind of snow to ski on - skiers often deride the soggy stuff as "Cascades concrete" for its prevalence at Western Oregon resorts - but it makes for an excellent base, Johnson said.
"It's really coated the whole hill," he said Tuesday.
Last year, by contrast, Anthony Lakes had about the same depth of snow when it opened for the season - 24 inches - but that snow was drier and less stable, Johnson said.
"You'd plunge right down through it," he said. "This year is a much better start."
Still and all, he cautions skiers and boarders that conditions this weekend will be of the "early season" variety - meaning a limited number of runs will be open, and trees, rocks and other potential hazards that are buried later in the winter will be exposed.
With temperatures plummeting this morning, the fresh snow that arrives before Saturday's opening - at least several inches, according to the National Weather Service - should be the powder for which Anthony Lakes is renowned.
Lifts will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, and on Dec. 15 and 16.
Anthony Lakes will start its Christmas schedule on Dec. 19 and be open daily, except Christmas Day, through New Year's Day.
Johnson expects about 15 kilometers of Nordic trails will be groomed this weekend.
Season pass holders only can get started one day early, as the Rock Garden chairlift will run Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The lodge and retail shop will open at 9 a.m. for skiers and boarders who haven't picked up their season pass.