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Take Offs: Why Pay Extra?

Why Pay Extra?

Skiers who ski a lot never pay full price for a lift ticket. If they did, they couldn't afford to ski as frequently as they do. So, what do they know that you don't? For starters, how to distinguish between discount cards that offer real deals and the ones that promise more than they deliver. Tip No. 1: If the offer isn't comprehensible, it's probably less than stellar. Cards produced by independent companies such as Ski Card International and World Ski & Snowboard Card do get you discounts on a variety of goods and services, including lifts, lodging and dining, but there are drawbacks. You have to decipher copious black-out dates and some ski resorts only offer a one-time discount through these cards. Your best bet is to seek out cards offered by individual resorts or conglomerates, because they are the most straightforward and offer the biggest discounts. Resort cards that offer the greatest savings are the ones that give you a discount every time you ski, have no blackout dates and reward you with a first-day-free lift ticket. Such passes are generally offered by the smaller areas, such as Loveland, Colo., and Stevens Pass, Wash., and are publicized locally so that destination skiers usually don't hear about them. But larger resorts also wheel and deal. Consider The Copper Club Card offered by Copper Mountain, Colo. For $20 you get the lowest daily price on up to four lift tickets (usually $33), 10 percent off dining at Copper-owned eateries and access to lodging and instruction discounts-but you have to buy the card by Dec. 22.

The lesson? Inquire about frequent skier cards before you buy a ticket, and do so before Dec. 15 (many cards are only sold prior to the holiday rush). If you can't get to the ski area ticket window or a ski show to buy the card before the cutoff date, don't worry: Most can be purchased online.

Travel Hit

According to the World Tourism Organization, Americans average 13 vacation days per year, Japanese, a healthier 25, and Italians, a very sane 42.

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