The most important part of any ski or snowboard vacation is the snow. When snow lovers are planning an early-season vacation in December, they must take the snow into consideration. When planning ahead, history is the best indicator combined with the mountain terrain and the resort's snowmaking prowess.

Good snow can found at select ski resorts across North America, according to the experts who regularly update Ski America & Canada, the country's best selling ski guide, But, you have to know what resorts have the best chance for heavy snowstorms.

If skiers and snowboarders are yearning for natural snow, they should head out West for the most part. New England skiing and much of eastern Canada's slopes depend on a steady blanket of manmade snow. That said, many experts caution eastern skiers to stick close to home in December, rather than chance poor natural snowfall in the Rockies, California and the Pacific Northwest.

Ski America & Canada's award-winning staff have selected their "best bets" for the top dozen resorts that will keep smiles on a snow-lover's face. These are ski and snowboard areas that are resorts with extensive lodging, nightlife and dining combined with some of the best early-season snowfall statistics as compiled by Remote ski mountains that have lots of snow and not much more, such as Washington's Mt. Baker, the Guiness Book of Records most-snow champ, Colorado's Wolf Creek, and Vermont's Jay Peak, were not included.

1. Alta/Snowbird, Utah
These ski areas share a common box canyon in Utah that squeezes more powder snow out of storm clouds than any other spot in the state. These resorts have the best chance of being blanketed in dry fluffy powder snow.

2. Grand Targhee/Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Year after year, Grand Targhee gets plenty of early season snow. The slopes here have been covered with snow in December for more than a quarter-century. Nearby Jackson Hole has almost as much snow plus the charm of the evocative old-western town of Jackson.

3. Steamboat, Colorado
A surprise resort for those who don't realize that these slopes lie in one of the snowiest corners of Colorado. The snow stays protected by Steamboat's legendary glades. Chances are that more trails here will be open here in the
early season than at any other Colorado resort.

4. Whistler/Blackcomb, BC, Canada
Our staff whined about occasional rain at this massive resorts lower altitudes. When there is drizzle down below, there's often sun and plenty of snow up high. Enjoy the upper mountain normally layered with plenty of snow,
then ride the gondola down at the end of the day.

5. Vail/Beaver Creek
Vail, according to the weather gods, is the better of the two. However, finding the back bowls open can be dicey. Between these two resorts, there is not much in terms of amenities that a skier or rider looking for the best
can't find.

Other resorts such as Winter Park in Colorado, Fernie Mountain Resort, BC, Canada, and the resort collection that rings Lake Tahoe have good early snow statistics as well. At Lake Tahoe it is normally feast or famine. When the snow falls, it comes measured in feet not in inches.

On the other side of the country in New England, more than 75 percent of the trails are covered by snowmaking. This means skiers and snowboarders can rest assured that they will have good coverage on trails.

Killington, Vermont; Sunday River, Maine; and Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, are the champions of snowmaking in New England; and Le Massif, outside of Québec City with trails dropping almost into the St. Lawrence Seaway, enjoys its own microclimate that makes finding snow a good bet.

Best resorts for early season snow.
Selected by the editors of Ski America and Canada
1. Alta/Snowbird, Utah
2. Grand Targhee/Jackson Hole, Wyoming
3. Steamboat, Colorado
4. Whistler Blackcomb, BC, Canada
5. Vail/Beaver Creek, Colorado
6. Winter Park, Colorado
7. Fernie Mountain Resort, BC, Canada
8. Lake Tahoe Resorts, California and Nevada
9. Killington, Vermont
10. Sunday River, Maine
11. Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
12. Le Massif, Québec, Canada