CONCORD, N.H. – Winter officially begins Friday, yet New Hampshire skiers and snowmobilers have been enjoying an early start and expressing optimism that this season will be snowier than last.

Parts of northern New Hampshire picked up more than a foot of snow earlier this week, and the forecast called for more Thursday night through Friday, with heavy accumulations possible.

At Loon Mountain in Lincoln, spokesman Greg Kwasnik said while there hasn’t been a ton of natural snow yet, it’s been cold enough for snowmaking. The resort opened Nov. 15, five days earlier than last year, and by this weekend, expects the amount of open terrain to exceed last year’s total by more than a third.

While Loon is hosting an “end of the world” party Friday night poking fun at the wave of doomsday speculation surrounding the end of the Mayan calendar cycle, it also plans to be busy Saturday.

“We certainly hope it’s not end of world because we’re very optimistic about the coming season,” Kwasnik said.

After an unusually early snowstorm in October 2011, much of the state didn’t get much snow through the winter. The snow drought and unseasonably warm temperatures hit winter sports industries hard and prompted cancellation of many winter sporting events.

This year, tourism officials are predicting an increase in visitors and spending. The Institute for New Hampshire Studies estimates that there will be 6.7 million visitors from December through February, a 5 percent hike over last year. Spending is expected to increase 9 percent to $860 million, much of which comes from snowmobilers.