TRAVEL / SKI SPECIAL: When to go

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The Independent Culture
PRE-SEASON: The Austrian Tourist Office: (071-629 0461) has a guide to ski clinics and glacier skiing venues. Crested Butte, Colorado: American Independence (0371 874848) has tried and tested reps in the USA.

CHRISTMAS: Heliskiing with CMH (071-736 8191) Trois Vallees: The Ski Company (081- 305 2299) offers exceptional luxury. Kandersteg: Made to Measure (0243 533 333) can arrange travel for independent skiers.

THE HOLE: California resorts: Virgin Snow (0293 617181) has direct flights with connections from Los Angeles. Italian Dolomites: The Superski Dolomiti Region, including Cortina, has its own regional tourist office (010 39 471 795 3970). Andermatt: Alpine Adventures (010 41 44 68353) can arrange learn to ski the powder weeks and ski safaris.

HIGH SEASON: Whistler: Crystal (081-399 5144) features 'chateau' hotels in Whistler, Lake Lousie and Banff offering the scope and luxury of the old transcontinental railroad days. Obergurgl and Lech: Inghams (081-785 7777) has the widest choice of packages in both resorts. Grindelwald: Powder Byrne (071- 223 0601) features the guiding services on safari and helicopter trips.

LATE SEASON: Jackson Hole: Ski Scott Dunn (081-767 0202) has the best local support and the most impressive service Vallee Blanche: Collineige (0276 24262) has the most characterful chalets and as the UK agents of the Chamonix Mountain Guide Association can book descents down the Vallee Blanche.

ALL SEASONS: The national tourist offices of the Alpine countries are always willing to advise on snow and crowd conditions in specific resorts. Switzerland: 071-734 1921. Italy: 071- 408 1254. Austria: 071-629 0461. France: 071-491 7622.

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