Travel Skiing North America: Slalom through brochureland

From heli-skiing to snow safaris, who's going where in Canada and the States this year? Cathy Packe cuts a path through the tour companies' literature
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The Independent Culture
THE QUANTITY of information in North American ski websites varies considerably, from Ski Independence (www.ski-independence. co.uk) which offers browsers pictures of its accommodation, through Ski the American Dream (www. skidream.com), with a list of special offers, to Ski Safari (www. skisafari.com), which also offers piste maps.

Yet to get a fuller picture you still need to look through the brochures. This year Simply Ski has added the Canadian resort of Whistler to its seven European destinations. And Top Deck is also dipping its toe into this market for the first time, in Whistler and Killington.

Many of the operators are expanding their range of resorts. An area to watch is Utah, which will host the 2002 Winter Olympics. With this in mind, Neilson has included Park City in its brochure, and Ski Independence has added Snowbird, bringing its total of North American resorts to 27. Elsewhere in the American Rockies, Neilson is offering the challenging resort of Jackson Hole; Crystal is now going to Keystone; Equity Total Ski has added Heavenly, while Ski the American Dream has included the nearby resort of Northstar at Tahoe.

There is an increase in the number of East Coast resorts, too, a major selling-point being that a single lift pass covers several areas owned by the same company. The most popular include those owned by the American Ski Company: Killington, Sugarbush, Sunday River and Attitash. First Choice now offers two of these, Killington and Sunday River, as well as Stowe, while Crystal has added Sugarbush and Mont Snow. Another group is Ski 93 in New Hampshire whose resorts include Loon; this has been introduced by Equity Total Ski.

One American resort that does not fit into any group is Mount Alyeska, which is about an hour's drive from Anchorage, in Alaska, and which Frontier Ski has included in its brochure. It concentrates otherwise on Canada, where it specialises in heli-skiing and safaris.

Another safari operator, Ski Safari, has expanded from western Canada to Mont Tremblant, which it is promoting as a base for exploring other eastern-Canadian resorts.

Several of the ski companies that already go to Tremblant, in Quebec, are improving their operation there. Inghams is now using direct flights with Canada 3000 from Gatwick to Mirabel, Montreal's second airport.

Others, among them Thomson, have increased the amount of accommodation they have available here and in the other popular Canadian resorts of Whistler and the larger Banff, in Alberta. Crystal has a new luxury Clubhotel in Banff.

This year several operators have responded to demand and have increased their chalet (as opposed to condominium) accommodation - among them Skiworld, with new chalets in Aspen, Breckenridge, Vail and Whistler.

Several operators are now promoting snowboarding packages, which can be added to the flight and accommodation costs.

Airtours at Lake Louise offers instruction, video session, and a lift pass covering the northern Rockies resorts of Lake Louise and Banff, for pounds 175. It has been popular for some time and adds another dimension to American skiing holidays.

This year, Ski Safari's Ski and See option offers whale-watching for anyone going to Canada late in the season.

Ski Freedom, part of United Airlines, does free city stopovers - free, that is, in that you pay for extra accommodation but not for the adjustment to the flight.

Meanwhile, a CD-rom, the Dead Smart Ski and Snowboard guide, aims to simplify with the click of a mouse the process of ploughing through literature. But at the moment, although there is a good selection of resorts, they have permission to include only a small selection of brochures.

Crystal 0181-399 5144; Dead Smart Guides 01634 309470; Equity Total Ski 01273 298298; First Choice 0870 754 2754; Frontier Ski 0181-776 8709; Inghams 0181-780 4444; Neilson 099 099 4444; Simply Ski 0181-742 2541; Ski Freedom 0181-313 0999; Ski Independence 0990 550555; Ski Safari 0171- 740 1221; Ski the American Dream 0181-552 1201; Skiworld 0171-602 4826; Thomson 0990 329329; Top Deck 0171-370 4555; Virgin Ski 01293 617181.

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