By LAURIE M. FISHER
Snow and prices are falling in the Colorado Rockies. Ski resorts are discounting lift tickets and accommodations to lure skiers and snowboarders to the slopes.
Some winter enthusiasts hesitate about planning an early-season trip because of sparse snowfall. This year resort operators are thankful for the more than 120 inches of snow in Summit and Eagle counties, home to Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone Arapahoe and Copper Mountain resorts.
On a recent excursion in late December to Vail and Keystone resorts, we found the best of both worlds -- packed powder, groomed slopes and nary a lift line.
The expert runs still posted hazard warnings for rocks and uncovered obstacles. However, more recent snowstorms opened acres of tough terrain.
By New Year's Day, Vail received nearly a third of the year's typical snowfall. To fill the beds at the base and lift lines to 5,000 acres, operators still offer deals on last-minute getaways. If you can arrange a trip midweek, the financial discounts are even greater.
'Perfect 10': Vail Resorts, which manages Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone Resorts, offers a deeply discounted "perfect 10" ticket to bring you to the mountains.
The Perfect 10 ticket features 10 days of skiing and riding at any of its resorts at less than $32 per day. (Compared to the retail rate of $67 per day). At least one ski day of the Perfect 10 must be used by January 31, 2002, or else the ticket can be used as credit toward another type of ticket or pass for the remainder of the season.
The Perfect 10 can be used 10 days of the season through April. The ticket can be purchased at any season pass office or can be pre-purchased on line at www.snow.com. Prices are $319 for adults and $159 for children.
Save on the cost of lodging with Vail Resorts' "Big Deal" discounts that offer up to 50 percent at select lodging properties Sunday through Wednesday, all season long. Weekend lodging rates, Friday and Saturday, are discounted 30 percent for the same period. The offer is not valid Jan. 18-20, 2002, or Feb. 15-17, 2002.
American Airlines and Vail Resorts offer up to a 50 percent discount for a family of four with no blackout dates. Kids ages 12 and under fly free when accompanied by a paying adult from all cities served by American Airlines or American Eagle into either Denver International Airport (DIA) or Vail/Eagle County Airport (EGE).
As part of this special winter package, kids 12 and under also ski and stay free at the resorts. Passengers must travel on Monday-Thursday and depart on Tuesday-Friday.
How this works: Once at the resort, each child is eligible for one free lift ticket with every adult lift ticket purchased for up to six days. Kids 12 and under also stay free in the same hotel or condominium with a paying adult (packages based on double occupancy).
Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone lodging properties are all offering additional savings as part of the promotion.
Packages start at $645 per adult for airfare, four nights of lodging and four days of skiing at Keystone in January or February. Other restrictions may apply.
At Copper Mountain resort, kids 13 and under can ride the lifts for free when parents book a minimum 3-night lodging and lift ticket package.
Copper offers kids' activities like the Quad Power Jump, tubing hill (weather dependent), Creative Kids' Club, Kid's Night Out and more (fees required for some activities).