Original Article

Getting away from it all to revel in the white stuff sometimes requires a little work. Keeping tabs on the weather report, rising before dawn to hit the road, sitting in a traffic jam on Interstate 70.

And that's assuming you've already shelled out the money for a day or more on the slopes. "This season especially, more and more people are deciding to go skiing at the last minute," says Dave Belin of RRC Associates, a Boulder- based research firm.

If catching a deal or finding an affordable place to stay is part of the equation, the Internet could make life easier - as long as you know where to look.

Here's a rundown on some of the sites that can save you money or save you time - or both - when you arrive at your final destination.

Scoring lift ticket deals

The launch of Liftopia.com has been a breakthrough for procrastinators who don't want to pay full price for a lift ticket. In most cases, multiday or unlimited season passes offer the best deal - if you buy them in advance and ski often enough.

But for those who like to wait until they actually want to go skiing, a single day on the mountain can mean shelling out almost $100. Even some small ski areas charge more than $50 or $60 a day for a single-day ticket.

Two California-based skiers, both former employees of the popular Hotwire.com travel site, have started to chip away at the walk-up window rate with the Liftopia concept.

"The customers that come to Liftopia are brand-agnostic," said co-founder Evan Reece. "They're not devotees of any particular resort."

But the site helps fill gaps during slow periods for the ski areas that use it, just as Hotwire.com has helped hotels fill unused rooms.

Jason Wardwell, 30, found a discount ticket to Arapahoe Basin after he arrived in Colorado for a ski trip with friends. "We wanted to balance what we were paying for tickets at Vail with a more reasonable day at A-Basin," the San Francisco resident said. "It was easily the best value of good skiing for the money spent."

If you think you might want to take a ski day next Wednesday, for instance, the site will list the Colorado ski areas offering discount passes that day. And the savings can be substantial - as much as 30 percent in many cases.

If you're willing to ski during the week, you can score $39 tickets to Loveland. That's far less than than the $56 you'd pay for buying a ticket at the window or the $48 it costs to buy a ticket beforehand at King Soopers or another outlet.

To use Liftopia, you purchase the ticket online and print out a voucher to take with you to the ski area. It's straightforward. In other words, you don't need to use a calculator to figure out whether you're actually coming out ahead when you get a free lift ticket with a three-night hotel stay based on four occupants each paying the listed rate.

Skipping the wait for gear

Going online to reserve rentals at the ski area can mean shorter wait times once you arrive. You can request equipment in advance and it will be ready for you when you get there. A site called rentskis.com touts a special February offer: 30 percent off if you book online to rent skis at many of the state's ski areas or participating Front Range stores. Another site, skirentals.com, allows skiers to set up rentals in advance at Front Range Breeze gear stores.

Lining up lodging

A number of resort towns with central reservations agencies also offer Web sites for searching and booking places to stay. The stayaspensnowmass.com site allows potential visitors to search by budget, making it possible to find deals on slopeside accommodations or nearby lodges even in the pricier Aspen and Snowmass Village enclaves.

Steamboat's site has been advertising all-inclusive package deals that include lodging, lift tickets and passes for soaking in the town's hot springs. Similarly, gobreck.com offers help with finding a place to stay in Breckenridge. A bonus: It offers live chat options with agents when you don't feel like wading through the options.

Consider going directly to the owners of ski chalets or condominiums by searching increasingly popular sites such as vrbo.com, which stands for "vacation rentals by owner."

Vacationers can likely insist on bigger deals this season. The Mountain Travel Research Program, known as MTRIP, has reported that advanced bookings through April have been about 20 percent lower than a year ago as travelers retrench.

Searching for savings

Check the individual Web sites of ski areas.

Monarch Mountain (skimonarch.com) charges $54 at the window (almost half the price of larger areas), but it offers even cheaper tickets for $44 online if you buy them 24 hours in advance of your visit. Once you buy it, it's good for the whole season.

Powderhorn (powderhorn.com) doesn't offer online discounts for its $53 adult lift tickets, but its Web site reveals deals such as $35 lift tickets for women on Feb 21 and 22. A burger, beer and ski deal adds $7 to the price of a lift ticket. Regulars can sign up for text messages to be alerted to specials by registering on the site or sending a "DEALS" text on their cell phones to 95495.

At pricier areas such as Copper Mountain (coppercolorado.com), the Web site allows you to save $24 if you buy two days worth of $92 lift tickets 48 hours ahead of your arrival.

Another site, skicoupons.com, can be a place to find miscellaneous deals, as can the industry trade group Colorado Ski Country USA site (coloradoski.com).

Even Colorado Mountain Express, the shuttle service from Denver International Airport, lists deals and packages on ridecme.com.