00:22 PDT DENVER (AP) — Early snow and cool weather has ski areas throughout the West itching to open the season after two straight years of late snow and lower skier numbers.

Big Sky in Montana got 3 feet of snow during the weekend and will open Monday. The resort hadn’t even begun snowmaking yet.

“The storm came in, it hit and parked over us. Everybody around here got real excited. We decided we would be the first to open in the Rockies this year,” said resort spokesman Dax Schieffer.

“People were already hiking in on their own and making turns,” he added. “Typically we would never do this. We were planning on opening Thanksgiving Day.”

Joan Christensen of Colorado’s Winter Park said, “The squirrels are panic stricken. The birds all went south a week ago. Last year they didn’t even go south.”

Boreal Mountain Resort near Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada line was the first Western resort to open this year. It offered limited skiing and snowboarding last Wednesday after getting a foot of snow.

Warmer weather forced it to close Saturday afternoon. It will reopen again when conditions permit.

Christensen of Winter Park said, “The snowmaking has been going great. We’ve had some real cold nights, the ground is cold and we are holding the snow better.

The fall has been much more typical in the West with absence of La Nina or El Nino, said Christensen. Loveland and Keystone, also in Colorado, also are already making snow and usually battle each year to become the first to open in West.

–ROBERT WELLER, Associated Press Writer