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T+L Trip of the Month: Big Sky Montana and Yellowstone National Park

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Don't miss Travel + Leisure’s December Trip of the Month, Big Sky Montana and Yellowstone National Park. In association with Travel + Leisure Elite Traveler, our travel club for deals on hotels, cruises, and more, the Trip of the Month offers T+L readers exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime itineraries from the world’s top tour operators.

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Vacationist Hotel Deals: Reasons to Book Now for Ski Season – Lake Tahoe + Vail

201111-b-sonnenalpjpgWant to save on your 2012 ski trip? Now’s the time to book your hotels. After Thanksgiving, rates can skyrocket, especially for experiences in some of the country’s best ski destinations, including Vail and Squaw Valley. “Consider Colorado, which had an awesome ski season last year thanks to La Niña.” A-List travel agent Michelle Bemis agrees that travelers should book now, “Airfares will definitely increase as the holiday season approaches,” she says. Get ready: Winter’s just around the corner.

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Snow? No. Discounted Lift Tickets? Yes.

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Like migrating birds and manufacturers of snow tires, skiers start planning for winter long before snow falls (or even, in my husband’s case, well before temperatures have dropped below 80°).

Liftopia, an online source for discounted lift tickets, has been around since 2006 but now represents more than 150 ski resorts.  A visit to their newly revamped site can transform the fall fantasies into actual slope time.  At resorts from Arapahoe Basin to Zermatt, you’ll find discounted lift tickets as well as deals on equipment rentals, lessons, and multi-day passes.

While many of the available discounts are as thrilling as waking up to fresh powder (e.g., up to 40% off at Snowbird, 23% off Sun Valley, 32% off Whiteface), the lift tickets in Liftopia's inventory are date-specific and sell out quickly.   So snag some now before the deals melt away.

Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of Lake Placid Lodge.

Vail Resorts Gets Even More Epic

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Bringing social media to the skiing experience is just one of the ways Vail Resorts has stayed ahead of the curve. And they did it in dramatic fashion, with EpicMix, their app that tracks vertical feet and awards digital pins based on RF-enabled ski passes. Up to now, though, the all-important photography aspect has been missing from EpicMix. No longer.

Sure, you can snap smartphone pics, upload them to your account, and share them on Facebook and Twitter. But Vail Resorts has given the photo experience a couple unique twists.

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Last-Chance Spring Skiing

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I know most people in the U.S. are head over heels for spring right now, breaking out the shorts, the bikes, even thinking about the bathing suit. But I can’t quite let go of ski season. It was a record one this year and, of course, I wish I had gotten out on my board just a few more times. If, like me, you are holding on to the dream of just one more outing into the white stuff, there are a few places where you can make it come true.

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World's First Ski In-Ski Out Distillery

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The sun crouches behind the snow-capped peaks as I prop my snowboard against a wall and step into the world’s only ski-in/ski-out gastro distillery. After an epic powder day, a bevy of snow shredders trickle in for après ski cocktails in what has to be the most unlikely destination for a whiskey brew shop on earth. Utah. Despite it’s rigid alcohol laws, bartenders were muddling mint leaves for mojitos laced with a Utah-distilled, award-winning whiskey. As Julian Rubinstein notes in Travel + Leisure’s January issue, Park City is a town in transition.

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Go West…for Ski Deals

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Winter’s back may be broken, but that doesn’t mean ski season’s over. In fact, this may be the perfect time to hit the slopes, while the snow’s still good and the deals are enticing. The keys to spring skiing: book quickly—and don’t forget your sunscreen. 

Park City, Utah
Over a dozen Park City properties are offering Ski Free and Stay Free packages that offer travelers a free night of lodging and a lift ticket at one of the area’s three resorts (the Canyons, Park City Mountain, and Deer Valley) when you book a four-night package. Valid for reservations between March 28 and April 11, 2010; see parkcityinfo.com for more.

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Just Back: Park City, Utah

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Utah and its frontiers for skiing and snowboarding have long been on my list for exploration, and my recent trip there did not disappoint. In fact, I was amazed at how easy it was to get there (a non-stop from JFK to SLC on Delta plus 35 minutes in my Enterprise rental car from the airport to Park City—with no harrowing mountain pass requiring tire chains). And it was so much fun (9,026 acres of skiing; hundreds of hotels to choose from, sunny skies, and, since 2009, no more “membership” necessary to enter a bar and buy a drink). One local told me he always felt like Park City was the redheaded stepchild of the U.S. ski areas, but I think it is soon to be (if not already) one of the favorites.

Favorite Runs:
Apex and Spider Monkey, The Canyons (lift ticket $85 a day)—trails here are generally fairly narrow, which made me feel immersed in nature, much like when I hike. Apex varies intermediate and advanced tilt down a thrilling ridge, and Spider Monkey bops beneath a cathedral of tall pines.

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Just Back: Vail and Beaver Creek, Colorado

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With my snowboarding skills firmly intact, I decided this season I would head west again (after three years) for some real-deal riding. Here are my highlights from my January jaunt to Vail and Beaver Creek.

Favorite runs:
Avanti and Pickeroon, Vail (lift ticket $97 a day)—often-groomed, excellent mix of intermediate and advanced slope.
Larkspur Bowl and Golden Bear, Beaver Creek (lift ticket $97 a day)—the bowl was next to empty and made me shout, WOOHOO, multiple times; I renamed Golden Bear “Honey Bear” because it was such a sweet ride.

Favorite après-ski spots:
Garfinkel’s, Lionshead (drinks for two $15)—lots of picnic tables outside, making it easy to spot your friends; I accidentally stayed après après.
Los Amigos, at Vail Village (drinks for two $15)—watch tired experts and out-of-their-league beginners make their last run down the black-diamond Pepi’s Face, and be thankful you’ve already loosened your boots.

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Your Snow Resource: SkiResorts.com + Olympic Bloggers Descend

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I sure could have used SkiResorts.com when I was trying to plan a birthday ski trip with 15 of my closest friends last month. I’m not a die-hard skier, the glut of information on the web—resorts, hotels, packages, etc.—left me completely overwhelmed, and I wound up scrapping the ski trip plan for a birthday celebration of a more indoor variety: karaoke.

So while this discovery came a little too late to help me out, hopefully SkiResorts.com can come in handy for many of you this season. The site, which bills itself as a “mecca” for everything snow-related, both on and off the slopes, helps you build packages at prime skiing attractions across the continent, tailored to your needs. Trying to find a good deal on a flight and condo for a long weekend in Jackson Hole? Done. Hungry in Stowe? Dig in. Looking for a spa to soothe sore muscles after a day on the slopes in Tahoe? Look no further.

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