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Ask T+L: Snowboarding Camps, Tour Reliability

q. I hear that Canada has the best snowboarding camps. Where should I take my family?—T.M., Norfolk, Va.
a. Most of Canada's major winter resorts have added special practice areas with ramps and jumps, and teachers certified by the Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors. Banff/Lake Louise in Alberta is a good place for beginners; Club Ski & Snowboard (800/661-1431 or 403/762-4561; $95 for the three-day package) sets up a group of students with the same instructor every day of their visit and includes slope time at all of the major area resorts — Lake Louise, Mount Norquay, and Sunshine Village. In British Columbia, Whistler/Blackcomb Mountain Ski & Snowboard School (800/766-0449 or 604/932-3141; $235 for a half-day private lesson) teaches how to ride at Kokanee Park — with its two half-pipes and a technical downhill — and on the challenging Horstman Glacier. Five-time world champion boarder Craig Kelley leads a summer camp there as well (888/997-2267; eight-day sessions from $920). Families love Quebec's Mont Tremblant (800/461-8711 or 819/425-8681); for $152, children ages 7 to 12 can enroll in a four-day camp, while adults can practice in the mountain's south-side park.

q. Can you recommend an affordable hotel in Dublin?And what are the in spots?—S.V., Providence, R.I.
a. Stay at the Aston Hotel (7-9 Aston Quay; 353-1/677-9300, fax 353-1/677-9007; doubles from $126). It's on a quiet side street in the Temple Bar district, just a few blocks from the area's happening restaurants and clubs. For dinner, try acclaimed chef Bruno Berta's latest venture, Dish (2 Crow St.; 353-1/671-1248); Berta was trained at Dublin's two-Michelin-starred Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, and his sleek new space and quirky Spanish-influenced menu attract a hip crowd. If you need a noodle fix, head to Café Mao (2-3 Chatham Row; 353-1/670-4899) and wait in line for your soba, Thai green curry, and udon. Just-opened Lemon (66 S. William St.; 353-1/672-9044) is a great spot for a quick lunch; save room for a Nutella crêpe doused in Grand Marnier. Brown Thomas (88-95 Grafton St.; 353-1/605-6666) is the place to shop for Irish designers; Dublin's best department store carries everything from Lainey Keogh's knitwear and neatly tailored suits by Louise Kennedy to Philip Treacy's outrageous hats. Pick up a copy of In Dublin, a bi-weekly guide to what's going on in the city, and check the schedule for the Irish Film Centre (6 Eustace St.; 353-1/679-3477); after taking in an indie flick, join the art-house types in the café. And through March 26, the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Military Rd.; 353-1/612-9900) is showing "The End and the Beginning," an exhibition of Kathy Prendergast's figure drawings; the artist uses a cartographer's style to map out the landscape of the body.

q. How can I find out whether a tour company is reliable?—H.C., Jacksonville, Fla.
a. First, visit the Better Business Bureau's Web site at www.bbb.org to find the local bureau for the tour company you're interested in (there are more than 150 BBB offices in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico). Local bureaus have the most up-to-date information as well as access to the 1.5 million reports that have been filed nationwide. Membership in the National Tour Association is also a good sign of reliability: NTA has more than 600 member tour operators that have been in business for more than three years, abide by a professional ethics code, and offer a Consumer Protection Plan. You can call 800/682-8886 to check out a company; the Web site (www.ntaonline.com) has member profiles, which include lists of travel destinations, company histories, and client age breakdowns. If the trip planner you'd like to use is based in a foreign country, call its national tourist board and ask about the company's reputation. Any travel agent should also be able to evaluate an outfitter for you and may be able to put you in touch with others who have taken a trip. Travel & Leisure readers vote for the world's best tour operators every year; for 1999's top 20 list, see our Web site at www.travelandleisure.com or refer to the September issue. Before you pay a deposit, be sure to ask any company for a detailed, printed itinerary that spells out what is included in the trip price, and the corporate insurance coverage and refund policy.

E-mail your questions to AskTL@travelandleisure.com, fax them to 800/926-1748, or mail them to: Ask T&L, 1120 Avenue of the Americas, 10th floor, New York, NY 10036. We regret that questions can be answered only in the column.

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