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For skiers and snowboarders, life is downhill in winter, and there’s plenty to choose from with lots of new trails and lifts, ticket packages and off-slope activities. Here are the 9 best destinations and deals to make it more fun, and cost less, to play in the snow.

RELATED: The best hotels for an unforgettable New Year’s Eve

Photo courtesy of Squaw Valley Lodge

Photo courtesy of Squaw Valley Lodge

1. Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows: Lake Tahoe region, CA

Alpine World Cup ski racing returns to the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics for the first time in nearly 50 years (Mar 9-17) with both men’s and women’s races. One of the competitors is Squaw’s own Julia Mancuso, an Olympic medalist. The races are being celebrated with free concerts, fireworks and other events.

Insider tip

To help avoid bottlenecks, download the new mobile app that shows you chairlift wait times. It also includes performance data such as vertical, andmaximum and average speed.

Photo courtesy of Keystone Resort Colorado

Photo courtesy of Keystone Resort Colorado

2. Keystone Resort: Keystone, CO

Keystone’s Kids Ski Free program turns five this season with free “Kidtopia” events and parties. The program is available to kids up to age 12 when you book at least two nights in a resort-managed hotel or condo.

Insider tip

This season will offer a free, behind-the-scenes tour of Keystone’s pastry kitchen with executive chef Steve Nguyen, where guests can watch (and sample) desserts and chocolate making.

3. Steamboat Resort: Steamboat, CO

The clunky old Elkhead fixed-grip mid-mountain quad has been replaced by a high-speed detachable quad, cutting ride times and access to the popular Sunshine and Priest Creek areas of the mountain by more than half.  Also, Steamboat’s new mountain coaster will operate year-round; get pulled uphill in the sled and slide down the rails while controlling your speed.

Insider tip

Learn to control your speed behind the wheel at the Bridgestone Winter Driving School just outside town, where pro instructors help you master understeering and oversteering, skidding and braking, on ice and snow.

Photo courtesy of MainStreet Breckenridge

Photo courtesy of Main Street Breckenridge

4. Breckenridge Ski Resort: Breckenridge, CO

This year at Breckenridge, a brand new 490-seat restaurant opens atop the Independence SuperChair on Peak 7, eliminating the long trek back to the base for amenities. The always-popular Ullr Fest, including a parade and other events celebrating the Norse god, and the International Snow Sculpture Championships return again in mid-January.

Insider tip

The new “snowmelt” system at Peak 9 Village means no more slipping and sliding in your boots.

Photo courtesy of Sagebrush Inn and Suites

Photo courtesy of Sagebrush Inn and Suites

5. Taos Ski Valley: Taos, NM

This legendary resort opens a much-needed and long-awaited luxury hotel at the base area this season. The Blake is named after Ernie Blake, the German-Jewish immigrant who founded the resort after serving with the US Army in WWII. There’s also expanded glade skiing on several runs, including the popular North American and Ernie’s.

Insider tip

Get the Taos Card for $19 off a single-day ticket during the regular season, and the 7th day is free.

6. Snowbird Resort: Snowbird, Utah

The resort’s iconic tramgot a major upgrade this summer,with new cables replacing the 40-year-workhorses. In addition to more reliable service, an integrated fiber optic cable means better webcams and better Wi-Fi on the mountain.

Insider tip

Avoid the tram lines during the day by playing in the endless terrain of Mineral Basin, with its own high-speed lift.

Photo courtesy of Winter Park Mountain Lodge

Photo courtesy of Winter Park Mountain Lodge

7. Winter Park Resort: Winter Park, CO

Take the train between downtown Denver and Winter Park chairlifts. The beloved Ski Train, now called the Winter Park Express, returns after a several season absence. It’s running weekends and holiday Mondays between Union Station and Winter Park, with adult tickets starting at $39 each way.

Insider tip

Unless you have bionic knees and patience for long lift lines, avoid the mogul-infested Mary Jane mountain.

Photo courtesy of Lumiere Telluride

Photo courtesy of Lumiere Telluride

8. Telluride Ski Resort: Telluride, CO

Get endless freshies in a three-day Heli-Ski Camp at Telluride Ski Resort. The first two days are within the Telluride ski area, to develop skills and experience in backcountry conditions and terrain. On the third day, participants chopper into the San Juan backcountry for a day of skiing expansive alpine bowls, gladed slopes and classic mountain couloirs.

Insider tip

The gondola between town and the mid-mountain village runs until 11pm.

ALSO: It’s snow joke that you can save money by signing up for Orbitz Rewards!

Photo courtesy of the Lodge at Jackson Hole

Photo courtesy of the Lodge at Jackson Hole

9. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort: Jackson Hole, WY

The new Sweetwater Gondola at Jackson Hole adds high-speed access to the popular groomed intermediate runs on the Après Vous/Solitude side of the mountain.

Insider tip

Do as the locals do and head for the Stagecoach in nearby Wilson on Sunday nights for an old-fashioned hootenanny.

 

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Tagged: California, Feature

Note: Orbitz compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Evelyn Kanter

Evelyn Kanter

Evelyn is an NYC-based travel writer who would rather ride a chairlift, river raft or zipline than the subway. She's a regular contributor to major publications, including airline inflights, and has written more than a dozen travel guidebooks. Evelyn's website is www.ecoxplorer.com
Evelyn Kanter

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