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Taking the Kids

Scoping Out the Slopes for a Family Getaway This Winter

November 04, 2001|EILEEN OGINTZ

That crisp mountain air, that bucolic countryside, that treasured time spent outdoors. Maybe this is the winter to take the kids and head for the hills.

Like the airlines, ski resorts are rolling out deals to lure travelers. They're also offering family programs, children's centers and entertainment ranging from hot stone massages to ice cream parties to giant tubing tracks. You may want to sneak away for a cheaper midweek deal, or go for a weekend before the holidays, or plan for January after the holiday crowds.

During much of the ski season, Southwest Airlines' "Friends Fly Free!" promotion will give you a free plane ticket if you get a package to Utah, New Mexico, Lake Tahoe or Durango, Colo. For details and blackout dates, call (800) 435-9792 or visit http://www.southwest.com.

Or consider heading to Canada, with its favorable exchange rate. At Whistler in British Columbia, adult ski passes are less than $40 (in U.S. dollars)--$20 a day less than at comparable U.S. ski areas. Visit http://www.tourismwhistler.com.

Look for deals that throw in an extra night's lodging or free skiing. At Breckenridge, Colo., visitors who pay for three nights' lodging and skiing get the fourth night free. The deal starts at less than $300 per person until just before Christmas, and it's even less for kids, who will enjoy the new children's center. Call (877) 593-5260 or visit http://www.breckenridge.com.

Even before Sept. 11, travel officials in Utah were worried that vacationers would avoid their state this winter because of the upcoming Olympics in Salt Lake City. But travelers thinking about visiting Utah in February, when the Winter Games will take place, should realize that Olympic venues cover only 2% of the state's ski terrain.

Utah's top ski resorts are jointly offering the "$20.02 Winter Celebration." If you spend at least three nights at one of the participating resorts--among them Alta, Brighton, the Canyons, Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort and Snowbird--each adult (and each teen paying full price for lift tickets) gets a daily $20.02 gift certificate toward a one-day lift ticket. That means you can ski at Alta for less than $20 a day and at the Canyons or Deer Valley for less than $40 a day. Call (888) 957-UTAH (8824) or visit http://www.skiutah.com.

At Brighton, kids 10 and younger always ski and snowboard free. At Snowbird, two kids 12 and younger ski free with each paying adult.

This season, thanks to a new high-speed lift, adult skiers can buy one lift ticket to ski both Snowbird and Alta, which are favorites with my family. They offer spectacular terrain and are great places to teach the kids powder skiing. Alta is the place to experience skiing the way it was before snowboards and glitzy hotels. It's all rustic lodges, rugged terrain and pristine alpine scenery. Call (801) 359-1078 or visit http://www.alta.com.

Snowbird, just down the road, has all the bells and whistles, including one of the biggest spas you'll find at any ski resort. I like Alta and Snowbird for their wholehearted welcome to families. Children's programs are first-rate at both areas. My kids preferred the action at Snowbird--luging and tubing at night, a giant heated outdoor pool, teen workshops and a kids' skiing park in a fancifully re-created mining town. If you use an American Express card, families of four can ski and stay for less than $180 a day. Call (800) 640-2002 or visit http://www.snowbird.com.

Closer to the nightlife and restaurants of Park City, the Canyons has plenty of convenient ski-in lodging and less-crowded slopes on eight mountain peaks. Adults can ski and stay for five nights for less than $500. Kids pay only for their lift tickets, which are $31 a day. At the Canyons' mid-January children's festival, kids 12 and younger get half off ski and snowboard lessons, plus free rentals and lift tickets. Call (888) 226-9667 or visit http://www.thecanyons.com.

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Eileen Ogintz welcomes questions and comments from readers. Send e-mail to eogintz@aol.com.

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