DEALS OF THE WEEK: MILLENNIUM WINTER SKIING

Keen skiers and snowboarders can find unprecedented bargain basement prices this season as tour operators begin to launch cuts in the face of a serious slump in advance bookings. Some operators are quietly confessing that reservations are as much as 40 per cent below the same period last year.

The millennium in particular is turning out to be a damp squib for many ski resorts with desperate operators slashing ambitiously high brochure rates by up to 50 per cent.

If you have specific requirements book now and ask for the keenest prices. For those prepared to be flexible in destination and accommodation, hang on a little longer and shop around - prices are still falling.

Steamboat

Ski America's finest champagne powder in Steamboat, Colorado. Crystal Holidays (tel: 0870 848 7000) has reduced the brochure price of a 10-night stay in a four-star catered chalet by up to pounds 400 for departures on 26 and 29 December. Prices, from pounds 779 per person, include return scheduled flights to Denver from London Gatwick or Manchester, transfers, four-star chalet accommodation and three meals a day. For more details visit its website at: www.crystalholidays.co.uk

Whistler

If you can make it soon why not indulge yourself in the comforts of the luxury Chalet Muirfield in Whistler, Canada's top ski resort for seven nights, departing on 4 December for pounds 669 per person. Price includes gourmet four-course meals preceded by cocktails and canapes, and fine wines, plus home-baked teas each day and a cooked breakfast every morning. Prices include daily private transfers to the slopes and return flights to Vancouver on Air Canada. Call Ski the American Dream (tel: 0181-552 1201) or visit: www.skidream.com

Beaver Creek

A chance to take an early season ski break and watch the World Championship Downhill Races from 26 November to 2 December on the Birds of Prey slopes in the upscale Colorado resort of Beaver Creek. Ski Independence (tel: 0870 555 0555) has daily connecting departures from London to Denver with Continental Airlines and American Airlines. Price of pounds 639 includes flights, transfers and seven nights at the five-star Inn at Beaver Creek.

Ski safari

Airtours (tel: 0870 608 1950) has a 10-night, three-centre Ski Safari through the Canadian Rockies departing on 1 January from pounds 539 per person. The package is based on four people sharing an Avis rental car, with Monarch Airlines charter flights from London Gatwick or Manchester to Calgary. The trip includes three nights at the luxury Chateau Lake Louise, five nights in the Banff International Hotel or High Country Inn and two nights in the small, picturesque resort of Fernie. See the website: www.airtours.co.uk

Surf and ski

Enjoy a week's extreme skiing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, followed by a week surfing the Pacific waves off Waikiki Beach, Honolulu. Ski the American Dream (tel: 0181-552 1201) has departures on 4 December for seven nights in Jackson Hole from pounds 529 with bed and breakfast at the Parkway Inn. For an additional pounds 425 you can take an extra week in Hawaii. Prices include scheduled flights on United Airlines. Visit the website: www.skidream.com

Canadian Rockies Millennium

First Choice (tel: 0870 754 3477) has 10 nights in Banff with daily transfers available to Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Norquay from pounds 699, departing on 29 December. Package includes return flights from London or Manchester to Calgary, transfers and room-only accommodation. See: www.firstchoice.com

Heli-ski in British Columbia

James Orr Heli-Ski (tel: 0171-483 0300) has 10-day tailor-made packages to British Columbia, including three days of intensive heli-skiing and a week in Whistler, from pounds 1,750 with departures any day starting at the beginning of January. Price includes scheduled flights from the UK, transfers, accommodation and all meals during the heli-ski days. Website: www.heliski.co.uk

Cross-border ski

Spend five nights in Quebec's colourful and lively resort of Mont Tremblant, followed by five nights in the peace and tranquillity of New England's Sunday River, in Maine. Ski Independence (tel: 0870 555 0555) has departures daily until 14 December at prices from pounds 639, including flights, accommodation and car hire. Visit: www.ski-independence.co.uk

STEPHEN ROE

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