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Some tips on holiday skiing

Next week, we talk about cross-country skis. This week, the topic obviously is skiing over the holidays, which is not really the same as a course in ''winter survival,'' despite the rumors.

Of course, if you don't pay top dollar Christmas week, you never will. Don't expect resorts - particularly ones that have been snow-starved for two years - to trot out the economy packages between Christmas and New Year's. The time for some of the biggest savings is before Christmas.

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For example, if you can drop everything and make it to King Ridge, N.H., today (Dec. 23), you can ski free on the area's 20th anniversary. And you have until tomorrow to take a nonskiing friend to a New Hampshire ski area fora special beginner's package while you ski free.

As for Christmas week, although it's usually crowded and expensive, it can also be a lot of fun. Those snowy days around New Year's invite ski parties. But what if you haven't made reservations and a day-hop hardly seems worth the expense?

Well, sometimes procrastination has its advantages, so here's a hint. The closer it gets to the holidays, the more cancellations increase. The Vermont Ski Areas Association advises to keep trying. What wasn't available one day may be the next. Call the centralized lodging services associated with resort areas. Most of them have toll-free 800 numbers. Before calling, make tentative decisions about acceptable dates, price ranges, location and types of accommodation. Ask specifically what prices include: lodging only, meals, lifts, lessons, rental equipment? Sometimes resorts suspend such packages for holiday periods but not always.

TV tip - PBS has scheduled last year's successful ''The Cross-Country Ski School'' for this Sunday (Dec. 27) at 6 p.m. (EST). (Check local listings for details.)

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