Warning of the week: the vagaries of lift-ticket pricing

Most seasoned skiers are well aware of how lift-ticket prices vary depending on when you travel. In recent years the standards of mathematics degree required to work out the lift-ticket costs for a family of four has risen to doctorate level, as complex pricing formulas have been published (no two the same), with added discounts for resort loyalty card-holders who purchase tickets online to be downloaded to their mobile phones, etc.

No resort illustrates this conundrum better than Vail, Colorado, where more than 50 ticket-price possibilities await. These range from probably the world's most expensive lift ticket - for seven days over Christmas, purchased the good old fashioned way at the ticket window in resort, at $553 (£308, or around £44 a day); to a 14-day ticket over Easter, purchased in advance through a British tour operator (although not necessarily as part of a package) at $199 (£111, or around £8 a day), less than a fifth of the Christmas cost. The saving over two weeks will easily cover the cost of your airfare, probably your ski rental too.

Destination of the winter: Turin

Although the big global sports event in 2006 is the Football World Cup, let's not forget the Winter Olympics in Turin when our skiers will be hoping to build on Britain's first-ever skiing medal won by Alain Baxter at the Salt Lake City Games four years ago.

It's quite possible to arrange your annual ski holiday to coincide with one of the big events, which close a tiny fraction of the ski areas concerned. Sestriere is the main venue for the men's ski events with the men's downhill on 12 February and the ladies on 15 February in neighbouring Sansicario (you can ski over to it). The men's slalom is the final event on 25 February (a Saturday - so beware of your tour operator's changeover day), and there are plenty of other competitions in between.

Snowboarding events are being held in Bardonecchia, a resort which, like Park City before it, had little or no snowboarding facilities before it was chosen as the Olympic venue. Heavy investment in new lifts and terrain parks have changed all that and competition runs from 12 to 23 February.

If you just want to see see the British ladies curling team win the Olympic gold again you need to be in Pinerolo (near Sestriere) at 5.30pm on 23 February.

Tickets for most events and the opening and closing ceremonies (in Turin on 10 and 26 February respectively), as well as the Italian team's official Olympic slippers, are available now (00 39 039 83 82 50; www.torino 2006.org/tickets).

First Choice (0870 754 3477; www.firstchoice.co.uk/ski), Thomson (0870 606 1470; www.thomson-ski.co.uk); Neilson (0870 3333347; www.neilson.co.uk) and Crystal (0870 160 6040; www.crystalholidays.co.uk) have holidays in the venues mentioned as well as lift-linked resorts like Sauze d'Oulx, Claviere or Cesana from which you can ski over to see the Sestriere and Sansicario competitions.

Bargain of the week: spend your birthday at Pinzolo

Anyone with a birthday during the winter should consider skiing in the pretty Italian resort of Pinzolo. Here anyone celebrating their birthday gets a free lift ticket on production of evidence. Whether you'll make full use of the ticket is questionable as you'll also be lavished with a free three-course lunch in the mountain restaurant.

If your birthday happens to be in mid-December, and you're also fortunate enough to be a woman, then it's a double priz, as 17 December is Ladies' Day in Pinzolo, when all women receive a free lift ticket for the Superskirama region. This includes half-a-dozen resorts in the area including Madonna di Campigio and the glacier skiing of Passo Tonale (00 39 0465 501256; www.funiviepinzolo.it).

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