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Unusual travel bargains make Western ski trips very alluring

OK, so the West has good snow this year. But can you afford to fly to a ski holiday in the Rockies, the Sierras, or the Cascades - let's face it: to almost any mountain in the West?

A happy combination of events could bring more affirmative answers than you'd expect in this deep recession. Last year, business at many resorts in the Rockies was poor, despite good snow. Thus, many of them this season are pushing bargain deals - something practically unheard of in winters past.

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A seven-day ski week, including six days lifts (sometimes various combinations of lifts, lessons, and rentals) can be found at some major Rocky Mountain resorts for around $300 per person. Of course, the more people, the lower individual prices are, but a few resorts are offering ski weeks for less than $300. Since Western accommodations are often in condominiums, that means you can do your own cooking to further cut costs.

Many resorts this year are also allowing kids (sometimes up to 18 years) who sleep in the same accommodations with their parents to stay free. A few - Steamboat and Telluride to name two, both in Colorado - will even let kids up to 12 years also ski free.

But even better than the ground packages are some air fares, a number of which are deeply discounted in various rebate schemes.

For example: Two people can fly for the price of one ($229 Boston-Denver roundtrip) on Delta with a previous purchase of a certain camera that runs in the $40 to $50 range. Kids up to 18 years with a parent can fly free on TWA. Continental will take you anywhere it flies for $198 roundtrip. Major airlines are matching the fare on most major routes. Continental also offers $25 discounts to any member of the US Ski Association and air fare savings of from 30 to 50 percent on many ski packages. In the Midwest you can fly on Republic from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Ironwood, Mich. ski country for $49.

Check 'em out. Various restrictions apply, but enough of these deals are around to give credence to that old saw: You can't afford to stay home.

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