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Thursday, October 29,2009

Savvy skiers know to look for ticket deals now

Fall hasn’t been here for too long, but the chill in the air and the recent snow storm in Colorado are reminders that ski season is on the way.

Colorado’s ski resorts were hit hard by the recession last year, with visits down 6 percent. Unlike past years, this season will see few major terrain expansions or new features at most resorts, as operators wait to see how the recession will impact the winter business.

Front Range skiers can take advantage of this uncertainty — if they act now.

While most resorts have yet to reveal their window lift ticket prices, tickets at some are staying at last season’s rates, and season passes at most are remaining the same as last year, or even dropping in price, as resorts seek to compensate for the drop in national and international visitors by luring local skiers to the slopes. Some are offering payment plans, making passes good at other resorts and adding other perks.

“We have over half a million people who are dedicated skiers and snowboarders right here,” said Jennifer Rudolph, spokeswoman for trade group Colorado Ski Country USA. “Resorts are working on providing packages and incentives and different pass products to make sure those people can get out on the slopes this year, because people live here because they want to ski.”

But many incentives and pass sales end before the lifts begin running, and prices for others begin going up very soon, so buy now to save later. Here are some of the best ski deals:

— Colorado Pass: This popular pass offers unlimited skiing at Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin, with 10 days, excluding some blackout dates, at Vail and Beaver Creek for $449. For unlimited days at Vail and Beaver Creek, get the Epic Pass, for $599. Or get the Summit Pass, for unlimited skiing at the first three resorts, for $399. Available at REI and Colorado Ski and Golf in Colorado Springs. This year, Vail Resorts is offering pass insurance, which, for $20, will refund your money if you get sick, injured or laid off from your job.

— Rocky Mountain Super Pass:

Unlimited skiing at Winter Park and Copper Mountain for $399. The Super Pass Plus includes six days at Steamboat for $449. Available at both Christy Sports locations in Colorado Springs.

_— Monarch season pass: Monarch is selling season passes for $319 through Nov. 7. Prices then jump $100. This year, season passes include free skiing at 10 other resorts.

— A Basin offers a $349 Bonus Pass, which includes unlimited skiing there and five days at Breckenridge and Keystone, and one of those days, excluding blackouts, at Vail or Beaver Creek.

— For those who don’t mind driving farther, Wolf Creek is selling passes through Oct. 4 for $574, then they jump to $718. Aspen/Snowmass is offering several new passes with smaller up-front costs and “pay-as-you-go” options to spread the cost over the season.

And what if you don’t plan to get in enough ski days to make a pass worthwhile?

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