CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. —A few ski areas have already opened both in the West and the East, including Arapahoe Basin and Loveland in Colorado, and Sunday River in Maine. Others are gearing up for their traditional Thanksgiving opening days.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your skiing budget from travel planners at Crested Butte Vacations, which is the central reservations service for Crested Butte Mountain Resort:
* If you must visit over the holidays, pick Thanksgiving over Christmas or President's Weekend. At many resorts, "peak season" doesn't begin until the week prior to Christmas, and often resorts offer early season packages and specials.
* Look for "fly-in, ski-out" deals that might include direct flights to local airports with transportation from the airport to the lodge, so you don't have to rent a car. Some resorts have free airport shuttles, and some airports offer buses to ski areas with inexpensive and convenient pick-up and drop-off locations.
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* Go in a group with family or friends and save on lodging by renting a condo or house to share, with a full kitchen. You'll save by eating breakfast at home along with any other meals you care to cook.
* The longer you stay, the less per day you are likely to spend, thanks to multiday discounts on lift tickets, lodging and rental equipment.
* Weigh the cost of baggage fees for flying with your own equipment and gear versus the cost of renting on site.
* Look for freebies, especially if you're traveling with children. Many resorts offer some packages with options where kids ski, stay and/or eat for free. Some states also sponsor free or discounted skiing programs for children in certain grades as a way to encourage youth fitness. New York State's Fourth Grade Ski & Ride Passport Program offers a free lift ticket with a paying adult plus a $19 processing fee.