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ON A BUDGET

Low Season, Low Prices at Ski Resorts

October 08, 2000|ARTHUR FROMMER

Speak now or forever hold your peace: If you're eager to ski top resorts this winter, you must respond quickly to a raft of recent bargain offers. Some will soon expire; others will sell out shortly.

In Vail, Colo., vacations don't ordinarily come cheap. But it's also a high-elevation mountain, so each year the snow usually arrives earlier than the skiers. Before the season heats up, prices are low.

Stay one night and buy a one-day lift ticket for Nov. 16 (the night before the first day of the season) through Dec. 21 (excluding Nov. 23 through Nov. 25), and you'll receive a second night's lodging and a second day's lift ticket for free. You can then repeat the pattern up to two times more, meaning a six-day, six-night vacation can cost as little as the price of three days--at low-season rates, to boot.

The promotion extends to an assortment of properties at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone. You can determine package rates and the hotels included by calling (800) 404-3535.

One reservations agent was surprised when he priced a two-night, two-person package at Vail's Cascade Club and Spa, a posh resort that includes hip amenities such as an Irish pub and a cinema. The total price, for arrival on Nov. 17, was about $155 for two people for two days, including lift tickets. Do the math, and you'll realize that a weekend of skiing is less than $39 per person per day, including admission. (As of press time, this particular weekend was almost sold out.)

"I'll tell you what," said our reservations agent. "If you were to book that a month later, you'd be paying $500 a night, easy." He acknowledged that, so early in the season, not every trail on the mountain is likely to be ready, but he went on to promise that as long as the temperature is around freezing (it usually is at that time of year), artificially created powder provides about 2 feet of base.

You can find out more about each area by visiting http://www.snow.com or by calling the number above.

Crested Butte, Colo., a former mining community turned ski resort, with some of the most challenging slopes in the Rockies, is offering early- and late-season deals. From Nov. 22 through Dec. 15, and April 1 through April 8, there's a "Free Lift Ticket" promotion at participating properties. One example: three nights' lodging and a three-day lift ticket for $114 per person, double occupancy. The package includes a queen bedroom at the Manor Lodge, a comfortable, centrally located hotel in the heart of the base area.

Crested Butte is "notorious for getting early-season dumps," according to Carolyn Bird, special events manager at the resort, who said 11 of Crested Butte's 14 ski lifts usually are open by the end of November. The lifts remain in full use through the first week of April, she said.

Prices rise with the snowdrifts, and so four nights' lodging and a three-day lift ticket will start at $247 per person between Jan. 2 and Feb. 13. Call (800) 544-8448 or go to http://www.CrestedButteResort.com for more information.

In Canada, would you believe skiing for free? In British Columbia, at the Powder Ski Resort about 250 miles west of Calgary, three ultra-cheap lodgings--Revelstoke Traveller's Hostel, the Monashee Lodge and the Powder Springs Resort--offer free skiing for their guests.

And at $12.50 (U.S.) per person per day, double occupancy, the Revelstoke hostel is one of the most amazing ski-and-stay deals around. Comfy duvets, oak beds and oak floors make this better than your typical hostel. And traveling alone won't cost extra, unless you're averse to being placed with a roommate. (Singles run about $7 more a night.)

As long as you book a few weeks in advance, you should have no trouble getting a private room. For information or reservations, call (888) 663-8825 or go to http://www.hostels.bc.ca.

Slightly higher rates are found at the Monashee Lodge, where you can park directly in front of your motel-style room. Here you ski-and-stay for about $13.50 per person per day, double occupancy, but you get an indoor whirlpool and the convenience of a 40-seat dining room. Tel. (250) 837-6778, Internet http://www.catpowder.com/index.html.

The Powder Springs Inn, highest end of the three, is still a good deal at about $20 per person per day, double occupancy. The 56-room, full-service hotel has a pub, lounge, large dining room, conference facilities and indoor and outdoor hot tubs. Call (877) 4CATSKI or (800) 991-4455, or visit the Web site (same as Monashee Lodge).

The season here usually runs from mid-December through mid-March, with some of the best conditions in early January. The resort doesn't make its own powder, so the season depends on the snowfall.

In Europe, a well-known firm, France Vacations, doing business in the winter as Ski Connections, has arranged weeklong packages to the Alps in winter, with prices that often add up to less than $1,000 for air and land.

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