Photos: Popular ski and snowboard playgrounds in America

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  1. Heavenly run

    Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., offers skiers 91 trails and 4,800 acres of terrain. (Corey Rich courtesy of Heavenly Ski Resort ) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Busy at Beaver Creek

    Colorado's Beaver Creek Snow Resort averages 311 inches of snow per year, gets 300 days of sun and offers more than 1,800 acres of skiable terrain. (Jack Affleck courtesy of Beaver Creek Snow Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Oh boy, Alberta

    Whiskey Jack Lodge is pictured at the foot of the ski hills in Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada. Lake Louise Ski Resort is one of the larger ski areas in North America with 4,200 acres of terrain. (Andy Clark / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. 2-mile-high club

    Looking for a high-elevation rush? The base center at Utah's Snowbird Ski Resort sits at 8,100 feet. The resort's highest point, Hidden Peak, climbs to 11,000 feet. (Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Va-va-va-Vail

    Vail, Colo., located west of Denver, is one North America's better-known ski towns. Vail Ski Resort features more than 5,200 acres of skiable terrain over 193 trails. (Jack Affleck courtesy of Vail Ski Resorts) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Après ski

    Skiers and snowboarders can do more than hit the slopes in Vail, Colo. Visitors can visit spas, go shopping and enjoy nightlife, festivals and family-friendly activities. (Jack Affleck courtesy of Vail Ski Resorts) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Take a Telluride

    Also located in Colorado, Telluride Ski Resort has 18 lifts, 120 trails, more than 2,000 acres of terrain, and features "Galloping Goose," the resort's longest run (4.6 miles). (Telluride Ski & Golf) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Road trip!

    Ski and snowboard enthusiasts can easily drive to Telluride from the Four-Corner states. Located in Southwestern Colorado, the drive time is seven hours from Denver and Phoenix, 2 1/2 hours from Grand Junction, Colo., and 2 1/4 hours from Moab, Utah and Durango, Colo. (Telluride Ski & Golf) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Stowe away

    Stowe Ski Resort is smaller when compared to competition west of the Mississippi, but it is a hot spot in the Northeast. The area offers 485 acres of terrain, but an average trail length of 3,600 feet -- longer than any other New England resort, its Web site boasts. (Stowe Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Great spot for beginners

    Buttermilk Ski Resort is small compared to some of its Colorado neighbors. Located just outside Aspen, Buttermilk has carved out its niche by focusing on snowboarders and beginners. Buttermilk offers 435 acres of terrian over 44 runs. (Hal Williams Photography Inc.) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Experience required

    Aspen Mountain is the backdrop for a horse and carriage ride in downtown Aspen, Colo. Aspen Mountain features 76 trails -- 48 percent considered "more difficult," 26 percent "most difficult" and 26 percent "expert." If you're a beginner, you probably want to get your feet wet some place less daunting. (Hal Williams Photography Inc.) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Take a hike

    Members of Aspen Center for Enviromental Studies (ACES) take a snowshoe tour in Ashcroft, Colo.Ashcroft Ski Touring/Cross-Country Area offers about 22 miles of groomed trails, and is located 11 miles from Aspen. (Courtesy of ACES) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Lock and Keystone

    Another popular ski option in Colorado is Keystone Ski Area, located about 90 minutes from Denver International Airport. The area features 20 ski lifts, two gondolas and more than 3,100 acres of terrain. (Bob Winsett courtesy of Keystone Ski Area) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Grab a six-peak

    Vermont's Killington Ski Resort stretches across six peaks. Skiers and snowboarders can reach the area's 752 acres of terrain with 22 lifts. (Killington Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Beautiful Breckenridge

    Big crowds may descend on Colorado's ski resorts, but that shouldn't be a problem at Breckenridge. The resort has two high-speed SuperChairs, seven high-speed quad lifts, a triple lift, six double lifts, and others, giving it the ability to move nearly 38,000 people per hour. (Carl Scofieldd courtesy of Breckenridge) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Bring the family

    Smuggler's Notch in Vermont bills itself as "America's Family Resort," and offers services, activities and education aimed at making sure everyone in your clan has fun. (Smuggler's Notch Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. 63 years and going strong

    Colorado's Arapahoe Basin has been operating since 1946. "The inaugural season opened with a single rope tow and $1.25 daily lift tickets," its Web site reads. Prices and equipment surely have changed, but "A-Basin" offers the skiers and snowboarders 900 acres of terrain -- more than half above the timberline. (Arapahoe Basin) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Long way down

    Utah's Alta Ski Area is scheduled to remain open through April 18, 2010. It features 2,200 acres of terrain, more than 100 runs and an average snowfall of 500 inches per season. It does not, however, allow snowboards. (Alta Ski Area) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Not for the faint of heart

    Of the 116 runs at Jackson Hole Ski Resort in Wyoming, 50 percent are "expert" and 40 percent are "intermediate." That's great news if you pass up the bunny slopes for some challenging skiing and snowboarding. (Jackson Hole Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. On -- or off -- the beaten path

    Jackson Hole Ski Resort offers 2,500 acres of terrain, plus an open backcountry gate system that offers access to an additional 3,000 acres. (Jackson Hole Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Sun Valley -- how original

    Seriously. Idaho's Sun Valley, started in 1936, claims it is the original ski resort. "Born out of a desire to bring the magic of the European ski resorts to America, Sun Valley quickly became a phenomenon without peer on this continent or any other," its Web site boasts. (Sun Valley Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Do you believe in miracles?

    American Shaun White is pictured competing during the Nokia Halfpipe Snowboard FIS World Cup on March 4, 2005 at Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid, N.Y. Lake Placid has hosted the Winter Olympics twice -- in 1932 and 1980 -- and offers a variety of activities, including downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, ice skating and more. (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Old West reminder

    Seven thousand feet up in the Colorado Rockies, nestled quietly below one of the largest ski mountains in North America, sits a small ranching community that serves as a constant reminder that the Old West is alive and well. Never far from its ranching roots, Steamboat remains firmly linked to a Western tradition that sets it apart from every other ski resort in the world. (Larry Pierce courtesy of Steamboat) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Big skiing in Big Sky Country

    Whitefish Mountain Resort in Whitefish, Mont., collects 300 inches of snow each year and features 3,000 acres of terrain, 94 marked trails and a 3.3-mile run called Hellfire. (Donnie Clapp courtesy of Whitefish Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Sweet on Sugarloaf

    Sugarloaf Ski Resort features 1,400 acres of skiable terrain, including Tote Road, a 3.5-mile-long stretch running from summit to base. Sugarloaf's redesigned terrain park features the 400 foot long Superpipe, a magnet for snowboarders throughtout the region. Portland and Bangor offer airport service to Sugarloaf, and Boston and Montreal are four short hours away. (Grant Klene courtesy of Sugarloaf Ski Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Crossing borders

    With more than 400 inches of snow per year, nearly 8,200 acres of skiable terrain and 200 trails, Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort in British Columbia, Canada, is an outdoor enthusiast's paradise. (Randy Lincks courtesy of Whistler Blackcomb ) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Carrying the torch

    Some athletes will become world champions of their sport on the slopes of Whistler Blackcomb when the Winter Olympics roll into British Columbia early next year. (Paul Morrison courtesy of Whistler Blackcomb ) Back to slideshow navigation
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By
updated 2/2/2010 8:22:55 AM ET 2010-02-02T13:22:55

I know all the classic big resorts, but are there worthy affordable alternatives?
If it's only skiing and snowboarding that you're after—not elaborate pedestrian villages with skating rinks, heated outdoor pools, and Nobu outposts—look beyond the marquee resorts like Aspen and Jackson Hole, Wyo., where the passes can top $90 a day. Under-the-radar mountains often have equally good runs at steep discounts.

Bridger Bowl, 16 miles north of Bozeman, Mont., offers a pass for $45. Vermont's Mad River Glen, which caters exclusively to skiers—no snowboarding allowed—has midweek tickets for $39. At Utah's Powder Mountain, about an hour north of Salt Lake City, the $58 lift pass is a serious deal, considering the mountain's 7,000 acres of skiable terrain. Entry to Wolf Creek, which gets Colorado's top snowfall (an average of 465 inches per year!), is just $52.

Keep in mind that flights to smaller cities like Bozeman are expensive. You'll get better deals flying to hubs, such as Salt Lake City and Denver, meaning your overall expenses could ultimately be lower.

I like to stay close to the lifts. What are my best options?
Plenty, as long as you can go during the week and avoid peak travel periods. State ski-association sites like skiutah.com and coloradoskitowns.org feature loads of lift-and-lodging deals at hotels and resorts; the best ones are well below $100 per person per night, but prices shoot up during weekends and holidays. For example, a three-night ski-and-stay package at Heavenly Lake Tahoe in California costs $425 for two people midweek in April. On a more prime February weekend, a similar package will run you $652.

If you're traveling with a group, booking a condo directly from the owner via homeaway.com or vrbo.com is usually a better buy than a hotel: The per-person lodging costs are cheaper, and a kitchen saves you from eating out all the time. Be sure to examine online photos, check references, and find the property's exact location on a Google map. Then call the owner and ask what he means specifically by phrases such as "ski-in, ski-out" or "walking distance from the lifts."

What are some smart savings strategies for families?
Kids don't need thousands of acres of runs, so consider one of the many mom-and-pop mountains. They're just right for perfecting your snowplow (or spending the day sipping hot chocolate). Three to consider: Quechee Ski Hill, in Quechee, Vt., adults $40, kids $34); SolVista Basin at Granby Ranch, in Granby, Colo., adults $54, kids 6 to 12 $32, under 5 free); and Soda Springs, in Truckee, Calif., adults $30, kids 13 to 17 $25, 12 and under $20).

If you prefer a big resort, pick one where kids under 5 or 6 get free lift tickets. Some ski areas are stingy about age requirements—only 4 and unders ski free at Vail and Heavenly—but others are more generous. At Brighton, Utah, and Big Sky Resort, Mont., kids are free through age 10. Many mountains also offer a "junior" discount for tweens and young teens.

Almost every ski state has a program that grants kids around age 10 a free season pass regardless of where they live. You'll have to download an application from the state ski association's Web site and then mail in a processing fee (usually $10 to $25). Most programs are called "Fifth Grade Passport," though sometimes there are also options for fourth or sixth graders. Regardless of where you go, if you're skiing with kids who are just learning, ask about a limited-access pass for yourself—there's no sense in paying the full rate if you'll be on the bunny slope all day. At Utah's Snowbird, you can pay $72 to ski the whole mountain, or just $20 for the beginner-area Chickadee lift. Not bad!

TICKET TIPS

Buy earlyand in bulk: The best discounts are usually on packs of four or more tickets bought in the fall.

Test the snow: If conditions are bad, return your pass within an hour. You can often get a voucher for another day of skiing.

Nab deals online:Skicoupons.com, liftopia.com, and discountlifttickets.netpost discounts of up to 60 percent.

Copyright © 2012 Newsweek Budget Travel, Inc.

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