October 22, 2003 -- It may be too early to ski, but it's not too early to make plans for a winter holiday. Admittedly, skiing is a fickle pastime -- if you plan ahead, you can risk ending up at the resort on the one dry, warm or rainy weekend. But you can save big bucks by taking that gamble, as airlines and resorts both offer impressive discounts for booking early.
Colorado is the nation's most popular ski destination -- no wonder, as the state has top-notch resorts with thick snow and gorgeous mountains. And Colorado's appealing to families this year, with kids-fly-free deals from both American and United airlines and a kids-ski-free deal at the Steamboat Ski Resort and Northstar-at-Tahoe.
If you don't have kids, look into American Airlines Vacations' companion-ticket deal. The package-holiday arm of American Airlines is offering two-for-one air tickets to Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone or Heavenly if you book a five-night package with them including lodging (at one of 40 hotels) and four-day lift tickets.
Restrictions on this one are pretty harsh: it only applies to Sunday-Thursday arrivals and Monday-Friday returns, and is available for trips from Dec. 1-19, Jan. 4-Feb. 9, Feb. 21-March 2, and March 27-April 15. For a five-night package at the Keystone Inn at Keystone, American is advertising $1,100 per couple flying from Chicago and $1,105 per couple flying from Dallas. For more details, go to www.aavacations.com or call 800/321-2121 and ask about the "Ski, Ski, Ski" deal.
Hotel deals for all skiers are also rampant at this time of year. At dozens of hotels and resorts, they take the form of fourth-or-fifth-night free deals. Ski megasite Ski.com (www.ski.com/resorts/specialdeals.cfm?sd=yes), for instance, lists free-night packages in Aspen, Breckenridge, Winter Park, Beaver Creek, Snowmass and Snowbird, among other places. If you're paying list price for a ski resort at the moment, you're paying too much. (For cheaper airfares to the Denver area, check out our previously published column on those by clicking here.)
Ski Resorts And Airlines Love Kids
A slew of other Colorado deals are targeted at families with kids between the ages of 2 and 12. The key is to get access to American's or United's fly-free deals, which give you a free child's ticket for each adult ticket you purchase. Ask your travel agent or packager about these deals, which are available through Nov. 15.
Whether you fly, drive or walk to the slopes, a five-day adult lift ticket at Steamboat will get you a free lift ticket for a child 12 or younger (bring ID.) This deal applies all season long. For details, call 970/871-5252 or click to www.steamboat.com. A similar deal is available at Northstar-at-Tahoe, which, we know, isn't in Colorado, but we wanted to mention it. Call them at 800/GO-NORTH or go to www.skinorthstar.com or more information.
Moguls Mountain Travel will build packages taking advantage of either of these deals. They're a well-respected ski travel agent and packager who we've recommended in the past. They say the fly-free deals are good for trips from Dec. 12-19 and Jan. 4 -- Feb. 13. You have to fly to your ski destination between Sunday and Thursday, and fly back Monday-Friday. Call 800/666-4857 to get price quotes on a custom vacation. They're online at www.skimoguls.com.
Other custom packages including United and American's kids-fly-free fares are available from Mountain Vacations at 800/754-3704, www.mountainvacations.com.
United Vacations' packages to Steamboat, Vail, Aspen, Crested Butte, Beaver Creek and Telluride include four nights' hotel and free flights for kids, but not equipment rental or lift tickets. For dates between Nov. 1 and Dec. 22 and flights on Sundays, Mondays or Thursdays, their packages start at $1,168 per adult couple from Dallas to Steamboat (staying in the Holiday Inn), $1,238 from Dallas to Vail or Aspen, or $1,058 to Telluride. Flights from Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle are a mere $20 more; flights from the East Coast are $90-130 more. For full details, see www.unitedvacations.com/spec/ski/kidsflyfree.asp.
Are you a ski-buff or bunny? Have you found a great deal for the slopes worth sharing? Tell us what your winter plans are on our Winter Sport Message Boards.