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I’m starting to see early-bird ski-resort deals. Do these offer the best value?

Whistler ski resort in British Columbia.


If you're talking seasons passes or ticket packages, you'll have to act fast. Tremblant's Sublime pass, launching this week, bumps up in price every three days, while Whistler's early-bird deadline is Oct. 8. As for whether such deals make for good savings, it's a matter of comparing your dream winter with your real life and calculating how many times you'll actually be snapping on ski boots. If the math doesn't add up, don't despair: You can still score some savings.

Weigh the package

Fall ski package deals are still in full swing. You'll find discounts on accommodation and ski tickets, plus offers of free meals, free rentals or extra nights.

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Ask questions to get the complete picture, says Mike Douglas, a former World Cup competitor, filmmaker and designer of the modern twin-tip ski. "The cheaper lodge to stay at might require you renting a car to get to the slopes. All those things can add up to hassles and expenses. … I also try to stay at B&Bs or pensions to get a better feeling of the people or culture in a place."

Travel off-peak

This message is consistent: School holidays are not the time to snag a bargain. Consider pulling your kids out of school to avoid the masses. Book for early-to-mid January – a traditionally slow time – or head for the hills when everyone else is stressing out at the malls.

"To my mind, some of the best skiing at Whistler happens the week … before Christmas," says Steven Threndyle, a snow sports journalist. "You'll have the mountain all to yourself. It's cold. Usually they get a ton of snow. The coverage is excellent. The pricing is really, really good."

Wait and see?

Most resorts are set up for snow making, whatever Mother Nature has planned. So balance early booking with what you want out of your trip.

"I am typically a last-minute planner because I'm a bit of a powder snob. I always try to go places where the conditions are good," Douglas says. "There are only a couple of places in the world that are reliable enough for me to book the early-bird deals: Whistler, or B.C. in general, and Japan. Aside from those spots, you're better to just see how the season is going."

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Ask yourself what kind of hill holiday you want, says Iain MacMillan, editor of Ski Canada magazine. Do you want the fluffy powder of the B.C. Interior or sunshine on the deck after a morning's run in the western United States? Do you want a culturally rich trip to Europe or a cost-saving road trip?

In short, says MacMillan, don't let the big picture – "the fantastic ski trip, good meals, good friends" – be obscured by deals.

Follow Karan Smith on Twitter: @karan_smith.

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