At the top of Outside's list -- mine, too, as I've reported before -- is Liftopia (http://www.liftopia.com), an online agency that posts and sells reduced-price and discounted lift tickets at hundreds of ski centers around the world. It doesn't have good deals for all of them, at all times, but it's a good place to start looking for lift tickets that won't break your budget. A separate release "reminds" you that Liftopia sells gift cards, a useful hint if you don't ski yourself, but need a good gift idea for any avid skier on your holiday list.
For serious ski enthusiasts, Outside recommends one of the many season ski passes available. Its number one recommendation is still the Epic Pass, covering unlimited skiing at a dozen top Western U.S. and three European centers for $729, even though the Epic website says that it has already sold out for the current season. Figure on buying early, next spring, for the 2014/2015 season. Meanwhile, the Epic folks still have lots of more limited western multi-center passes (http://www.snow.com/epic-pass/passes/epic-pass.aspx).
If you prefer eastern skiing, take a look at The New England Pass (http://www.newenglandpass.com) covering Sunday River, Sugarloaf and Loon, with lots of options ranging from Bronze at $515 for unlimited weekday access to Gold at $1,210 for all-season unlimited access, with discounts for youth and seniors, including a $30 Gold pass for super-seniors age 80 or over and special deals for college students. Also check the Double Down Pass, covering access to Mount Snow and Stratton, with lots of options ranging from s restricted Sunday-only pass at $499 to a full-season transferrable pass at Mount Snow for $3,000. Lots of individual eastern areas also sell local season passes.
If you want to combine a ski vacation with a visit to Europe, the British Post Office posted a report comparing Europe's top 22 ski resorts. Although written from a British perspective, the comparisons should be reasonably accurate for U.S. and Canadian visitors, as well. Cost data, which I've converted from pounds, cover a six-day ski pass, ski and boot rental, some ski school and the cost of a daily lunch for one person:
-- The least expensive areas are both in Eastern Europe: Bansko in Bulgaria, at $400 per person, and Kranjksa Gora in Slovenia, at about $520.
-- The least expensive resort in Italy is Livigno, near the Swiss border northeast of Milan, at about $560; the least expensive complex in Austria is Ellmau, close to the German border, southeast of Munich; and the least expensive resort in France is Morzine, in Haute Savoy just east of Geneva, at $640. The most expensive is Wengen, in Switzerland's Jungfrau region, at $1,025.
-- The list also shows "best value" locations, again led by Bransko, Kranjska Gora, Livigno, and Ellmau. Other good value resorts include Morzine; Sestieri, Cervina and Selva in Italy; plus Ruka in Finland and Soldeu in Andorra. In somewhat different order, the "best for families" categories include mostly these same centers.
By contrast, the seven top North American ski areas tend to be more expensive. In Colorado, for example, it's $850 at Winter Park and $1,300 at Breckenridge. Weekly cost differences as high as $300 might well offset the higher airfares to Europe.
Another advantage of European skiing: Many centers are located in small and midsize cities, with a broad spectrum of accommodations and restaurants, rather than in price-gouging self-contained resorts.
If you were wondering what business the British Post Office has doing ski comparisons, that semi-public operation provides a laundry list of financial and travel services in addition to running the nation's retail post office locations.
(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at eperkins(at)mind.net. Perkins' new book for small business and independent professionals, "Business Travel When It's Your Money," is now available through http://www.mybusinesstravel.com or http://www.amazon.com)
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