Whoosh! The Sound of Popularity on Fine Powder

Last year marked a record-setting ski season for American resorts with 60.5 million skier visits, according to the National Ski Areas Association.

This year, many ski enthusiasts are faced with tighter budgets and new economic challenges that have them searching for ways to save without giving up their annual trip.

When looking to cut vacation costs, it all starts during the booking process. Top travel experts share the following tips for ski savings:

· Consider your lodging location. While ski in/ski out locations offer the convenience of walking out the door and hopping on the lift, opting for lodging a little further from the mountain can save you cash. And most ski resorts offer free shuttle services.

· Look for alternative lodging. For families and groups, alternative lodging like vacation rentals, homes, condos and cabins can be much less expensive than booking multiple hotel rooms.

· Ski on off-peak dates. Busy holiday weekends, including the upcoming Presidents' Day weekend, can be more expensive and very busy. If you want to save money and avoid long lift lines, consider weekday versus weekend trips, and you'll save even more.

Online travel Web site Orbitz (www.orbitz.com) has pulled together a list of the top ski destinations for the current season. Lake Tahoe takes the top spot, while Colorado makes a strong showing with six of its most popular destinations on the list.

The good news is that popular doesn't always mean expensive. For example, even as Lake Tahoe continues to remain a skier's favorite destination, it still offers the lowest average daily hotel rate of any ranking destination.

Top Destinations:
· Lake Tahoe, Nev.
· Breckenridge, Colo.
· Park City, Utah
· Vail, Colo.
· Aspen, Colo.
· Keystone, Colo.
· Winter Park, Colo.
· Whistler, British Columbia
· Banff, Alberta
· Steamboat Springs, Colo.

(Take note that while the Catskills isn't listed, the above resorts would fall behind that mountain range if the subject were best skiing with a side of kishke.)

With ski season lasting into the early spring, there are many opportunities for budget shoppers to get ski packages at the right price.



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