It's a bleak Tuesday morning in the city and you hear about a
massive storm blanketing the Rockies with fresh snow. You have
two choices: You can merely dream about floating in perfect
powder, or you can spend ten minutes online, grab a discounted
package deal, and be on a plane by Friday night. Or a Friday
night three months from now, if that works better. Such is the
promise, at least, of the Web's best ski travel sites, a promise we
recently put to the test and found prices that ranged from "no
big deal" to "what a steal!"
If you've never shopped for a ski trip online, try now: In this post-holiday,
post-Millennium Eve market, great deals are up for grabs.
In general, online prices stay about the same whether it's three days
or three months in advance, whereas everyone knows what happens
when you call an airline last-minute ("The cheapest fare to Denver is
Two good places to start are Ski Vacation Planners
(www.skivacationplanners.com) and Any Mountain Tours (www.anymtn.com). Both have
contracts with airlines to sell discounted fares, with no pesky
advance-purchase or Saturday-night-stay restrictions. The catch is
you have to book lodging and ground transportation in addition to
the plane ticket. But the online outfitters have these elements at
competitive and occasionally drastically reduced prices too, and
there's the advantage of one-stop shoppingvisit a single Web site
and you can arrange an entire trip.
In October, we priced two trips for January 21 to 25: one from Los
Angeles to Park City, Utah; the other from New York City to Vail.
Prices include taxes and three-day lift tickets, and are based on two
people splitting the room cost.
Then we called the same airlines, hotels, and car and van companies
used by the outfitters and came up with an à la carte price. [All prices in U.S. dollars.]
Ski Vacation Planners
L.A. to Park City: $732 per person. À la carte: $890. E-savings: $158.
New York City to Vail: $956 per person. À la carte: $1,097. E-savings: $141.
Any Mountain Tours
L.A. to Park City: $665 per person. À la carte: $781. E-savings: $116.
New York City to Vail: $795 per person. À la carte: $1,135. E-savings: $340.
These sites aren't perfect yet. You may encounter downloads slower
than a beginner at the bunny slope, or the frustrations that come with
trying to explain complex travel plans to a computer instead of a
person. And, as the prices above indicate, you won't always find an
astounding deal. So should you rely exclusively on ski Web sites?
No. Should you add them to your list of bargain travel tools? Most
And don't miss the adventure travel thread in the message boards at
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELER.