By Sarah Nassauer
Ski destinations, especially in the western mountains, are working hard to try to entice travelers to their slopes this year, with deals on lift tickets, lodging, ski school and meals.
Last year destinations that depend on people flying in—like Wyoming, Colorado and Utah—lost ground to cheaper, drive-to destinations such as Pennsylvania and Southern California. And industry experts expect more of the same this year.
That is spurring western resort areas to unveil a flurry of deals. For example, Aspen Skiing Co. , which operates Ajax Mountain, Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass ski resorts, is already offering a kids stay, ski, eat and rent skis free deal for the entire month of March—the area's high season. "People used to say Aspen is recession-proof," says David Perry, senior vice president of Aspen Skiing Co., mountain division. Last year, "we certainly found otherwise."
Whistler, host of the 2010 winter Olympics, is a particularly good bargain before and after the Vancouver games begin in February. Typically when a ski resort hosts the Olympics, demand actually falls—people anticipate crowds and inconveniences.
Resorts in Whistler "are afraid no one will come," says Dan Sherman, communications director for Ski.com, a ski-vacation booking company.
The Four Seasons Resort Whistler is offering two packages that normally wouldn't be offered during peak times, says Samantha Geer, director of public relations for the region. Their "Complimentary Third Night" package is available for select weeks before and after the Olympics. The hotel is also offering a "50% Off the Second Night" package during the same weeks.
Airlines that fly to ski destinations are also offering perks. Southwest Airlines Vacations recently introduced a "Friends Fly, Stay, and Ski Free" deal for the first time. The deal includes one day of free lodging and skiing for everyone, and a free flight for a friend. The deal is offered at select ski areas in Colorado, Nevada and Utah for travel until Feb. 10, with some blackout dates around the winter holidays. Travel must be booked before Nov. 26.
Also, some resorts are now offering a small number of deeply discounted lift tickets in daily sales on Web sites such as Liftopia.com. Prices are then raised or dropped based on demand. In the past, most resorts tended to offer a fixed discounted rate for certain nonpeak times during the season.