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Looking for a way to escape the extreme heat this summer? Why not drop below the Equator for ski season and experience the majestic beauty of the Andes in Chile and Argentina, the Snowy Mountains of Australia or the Southern Lakes district of New Zealand?

Fly South Vacations (tel. 800/234-5245; www.flysouthvacations.com) offers a number of South American skiing based and skiing-city combination packages. Las Leñas, Argentina has the reputation of being the best ski resort in South America. With over 100 couloirs and endless off-piste and backcountry opportunities, it's the place to come if you are serious about your powder skiing or snowboarding. Mendoza is one of the most scenic cities in the Andes Mountains and the center of Argentina's wine production. The eight-night "Las Leñas and Mendosa" package includes round-trip flights from Miami, two nights accommodation at Postales del Plata Chacras de Coria Lodge in Mendosa, six-nights at the Las Leñas Ski Resort Condo, transfers, tours and meals as specified in itinerary, hotel taxes and service charges. This package is priced from $2,399 for travel from August 16 to September 28, 2005.Add $25 from New York, $60 from Boston, $120 from Los Angeles and $200 from Portland or Seattle.

The Chilean ski resort, Valle Nevado (www.vallenevado.com/mb), is located in the heart of the Andes Mountains, just 37 miles from Santiago. Visit Chile's capital and this nearby ski resort with the "Santiago and Valle Nevado" package. Priced from $1,249 per person plus taxes, it includes round trip flights from Miami, four- nights hotel accommodations in Santiago de Chile Tarapaca Hotel, tours and resort transfers as specified in itinerary, breakfast daily, daily ski pass at the Valle Nevado Resort and hotel taxes and service charges. Add $25 from New York, $75 from Baltimore, Boston or Philadelphia, $115 from Los Angeles and $175 from Chicago, San Francisco or Denver. Other departures cities also available. Packages must be purchased by August 4, 2005 for travel from now until August 15, 2005.

Portillo is Chile's oldest and most famous ski resort. Ski Vacation Planners (tel. 800/822-6754; www.skivacationplanners.com) has a land only ski package special to Portillo starting as low as $1100 per person. For this price you get seven-nights' accommodation in a valley view room at the Hotel Portillo, four meals per day, daily lift passes, full use of Portillo fitness and entertainment facilities and all hotel taxes. Airfare to Santiago Chile and airport transfers from Santiago to Portillo (about a three hour drive) are additional.

Both Travelocity (www.travelocity.com) and 1800CheapSeats (www.1800cheapseats.com) have round-trip flights to Santiago from $600 to $700 during July and August 2005 from Miami on various airlines. From New York, fares range from $550 to $750 and from Los Angeles from $680 to $750.

Take advantage of the favorable exchange rates down under and get even more bang for your skiing buck. The southern island of New Zealand boasts several world class ski resorts with the added benefit that you can base yourself in one centrally located city -- Queenstown -- and ski a different resort each day -- choose from Coronet Peak, The Remarkables (one of the locations used for the Lord of the Rings films), Cardrona, Treble Cone and Wanaka.

Ginz.com (tel + 643/366-4486; www.ginz.com) has a selection of ski packages based from Queenstown. Starting from $660 per person based on double occupancy, the package includes six-nights accommodation in a courtyard room at the Aspen Hotel Queenstown, rental car with unlimited mileage, insurance with excess (bus transfers on request), five-days' Interchangeable Ski SuperPass for any major New Zealand ski area and rental equipment hire. This rate is valid for travel until October 10, 2005.

For shorter escapes, Ginz offers the Ski Express (www.skiexpress.co.nz; e-mail: reservations@skiexpress.co.nz) low-priced deals. Their Queenstown package includes two-nights lake view accommodation, including daily breakfast at the Mercure Resort, airport/hotel transfers on arrival and departure, unlimited ski shuttle transfers and three-days' unlimited skiing at Coronet Peak or The Remarkables for $215 per person. The Wanaka package includes two-nights accommodation at the Wanaka Hotel, three-days' car rental ex Queenstown and a one-day lift pass at Treble Cone or Cardrona for $210. Prices valid for travel from now until October 2, 2005.

Book by July 31, 2005 and Air New Zealand (tel. 800/262-1234; www.airnewzealand.com) will fly you to Queenstown from Los Angeles, San Francisco or Honolulu from $798. This price is valid for travel from August 7 until December 8, 2005 (although the ski season only runs until October). This fare also allows you to fly into one city in New Zealand and fly out of another for no additional cost. Taxes run to $53.

People don't immediately think of Australia as a skiing destination, but the great southern continent has a few excellent resorts with moderate climate and, depending on the season, often an abundance of snow. The main resorts are located at Thredbo and Perisher-Blue in New South Wales (approximately six hours drive south of Sydney) and Falls Creek, Mt Buller and Mt Hotham in Victoria (about three to five hours north of Melbourne).

Thredbo (www.thredbo.com.au) offers a number of value added discount deals throughout the season. The "Thredbo Saver" package includes five-nights accommodation on the mountain, five breakfasts, two dinners, five half-day lift passes and five two-hour first timer group lessons for $620 per person quad share or $820 twin share during the month of September 2005. Their "Extra Value" package features three-nights accommodation in a superior room, three breakfasts, two three-course dinners, three-day lift passes and three bonus first timer two-hour lessons for $380 midweek or $450 on weekends. These rates are valid from September 11 to October 9, 2005 with higher prices applicable during the month of August 2005. Buses from Sydney to Thredbo are operated by a number of companies including Guthreys Skibus Express (www.guthreyspacific.com.au) and McCafferty's Greyhound (www.mccaffertys.com.au).

Mt Hotham (www.skicom.com.au/packages) has an indulgent ski package that is available from August 28 until the end of the ski season (usually late September or early October). The "White Weeks at Chalet Hotham" deal includes five or seven-nights in a luxurious studio apartment, daily ski lift passes and lessons, breakfast and dinner daily and a half-hour per person in-room pampering treatment (massage). This package is priced from $550 for five-nights or $735 for seven-nights per person based on double occupancy. Go with a group of six people and stay in a two bedroom apartment from $460 per person for five-nights or $610 for seven. During the ski season, Trekset Snow Services (www.mthothambus.com.au/fares.shtml) operates a bus service from Melbourne to Mt Hotham for $99 round-trip.

Airfares to Australia are incredibly low during the winter months with Qantas (tel. 800/227 4500; www.qantasusa.com) currently offering specials like its web sale fare of $848 plus taxes from Los Angeles to Melbourne or Sydney. The catch is that you must book by July 31, 2005 but this price is available for travel from now until September 30, 2005. Other departure cities available for additional cost.

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