Budget Ski Trips 2009
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WHISTLER BLACKCOMB, BRITISH COLUMBIA
Annual snowfall: 402 inches
Vertical drop: 5,020 feet (Whistler); 5,280 feet (Blackcomb)
Skiable acres: 4,757 (Whistler); 3,414 (Blackcomb)
One-day lift ticket: $89
Perfect for: Diehards who scoff at fair-weather skiers—Whistler's annual 34 feet of snow don't drop out of sunny skies
Why here: With one-day lift tickets ringing up at $89, Whistler Blackcomb isn't exactly cheap, but it is the real deal: a vast playground of mile-high cliffs that get so much snow you can ski down them. The U.S. dollar goes farther in Canada now than it has during the recent past, and with the 2010 Winter Olympic Games coming down the pike, it's a great time to check out the scene before the throngs—and price-gouging—hit. (You can snag significant savings with the right ski-and-stay package.) Since these peaks are massive, show up at either mountain's mid-mountain guest satisfaction center at 11:30 am to join a free tour to get your bearings. In general, Whistler is slightly easier to handle than Blackcomb, but don't expect much coddling there, either: Both are mountains best handled by experts.
The highlight: A ride in the new Peak 2 Peak Gondola (pictured). Spanning 2.73 miles and supported by just four towers, it's an engineering marvel: the longest unsupported lift span in the world and, at 1,427 feet above the valley floor, the highest lift of its kind. To ramp up the fear factor, catch the glass-bottomed car.
Sleep for cheap: Perched on the mountain above Blackcomb Village, Residence Inn by Marriott's homey, nicer-than-average ski-in/ski-out condos include full kitchens and fireplaces. There's also a slopeside heated pool and hot tub (trust us, you'll need it), plus free breakfast.
Three nights at the Residence Inn by Marriott and two days of skiing start at $195 per person; 888-403-4727; www.whistler-marriott.com/hotel/specials.aspx