Having withstood more than their share of difficult winters lately, ski resorts in the Rockies and farther west are salivating at the prospect of a snowy winter for the 2009-10 season.

Ski Lake Tahoe resorts reported a "significant" early-season snowfall the first weekend of October, and officials there site predictions by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service and Western Weather Group that the Sierra Nevadas will get pelted with heavy snowfalls this year, thanks to El Nino.

Based on the last El Nino winter in Lake Tahoe, area resorts could expect more than 700 inches of snow plus an extended season that could begin in a few weeks and extend well into spring and beyond.

Tahoe is not the only ski area to enjoy pre-Halloween snowfalls this year. Grand Targhee Resort in Wyoming got more than a foot of snow on Sept. 30, and Aspen Snowmass was enjoying its second snowstorm by the first week of October.

On the East Coast, Saddleback in Maine reported a light snowfall Oct. 1.

While none of this early bounty is a sure predictor of the season to come, given the notoriously fickle nature of Mother Nature in recent years, at the very least winter sports enthusiasts can look for early resort openings and a flurry of early-season deals.

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