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Best Affordable Ski Resorts

Published: 01/05/2009

Where to find downhill ski bargains in an economic downturn.
By Everett Potter
Travel & Leisure

Savvy skiers, listen up: This could just be your year to find great deals at some of America's best ski resorts.

That's because these winter hot spots are bracing for a rough season: the rising price of everything from fuel to food means it will cost the resorts a bundle to run their lifts and keep their hotels open. And because of the softening economy, resort bookings are down 20 percent or more this winter. The silver lining? This combination is spurring the mountains to create irresistible ski deals.

Many resorts are adding value to ski packages, offering a third or fourth night free, or lowering rates during the traditional slow times, like the month of January and spring. Resorts are also offering passes that can save you dough, like the Ski Salt Lake Super Pass (good for Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, or Solitude), which is good for one to six days of skiing and free round-trip transportation from downtown and suburban Salt Lake City.

But don't wait for the resorts to make a deal-you can be proactive about planning an affordable ski trip this winter. Here are our suggestions:

Accommodations. Start by checking out a condo or a ski house, even if it's just for a long weekend. A condo usually costs less per person than a hotel, and you'll gain a kitchen, which means savings on meals. And skip the pricey slopeside lodgings.

Airfare. If you can fly midweek, you'll generally find lower fares to resort destinations. And while nonstop flights are faster, itineraries with connecting flights are often cheaper. Also, shop on Farecompare.com and other sites that show the price difference that one day can make. If the price of airfare, lodging, and transfers still seems daunting, turn to a ski tour operator like Ski.com for a package that bundles everything together-it can be the cheapest way to go.

Local Transportation. Do the math. Ski-town airports charge high rental rates in wintertime, and your "car" may well be an SUV-great for mountain driving, but a huge gas-guzzler. Instead, rely on airport shuttles. In Salt Lake City, Utah, that means All Resort, which charges $35 per adult (and $22 per child under 12) each way to Park City, a resort town that's compact and walkable.

Resorts. If you don't have your heart set on one particular resort, you'll find places that perennially offer more bang for your buck. Fortunately, these spots span the geographical range. So get online and check to see what's available, and plan that winter getaway today.

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