- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 7, 2003

Traveling around the Internet the other day, I tried to remember what ski vacation planning was like before the Web opened up endless possibilities and offered uncountable options.

I remember poring over ski resort directories to plan the dream vacation, spending hours on the telephone with travel agents and ski tour operators to make arrangements, requesting brochures through the mail to comparison shop for resorts.

That has all disappeared. Nearly every resort in the world has a Web presence. An hour of mouse clicks will get me all the information I could ever want about skiing in, say, Utah. Many resorts have tied their lodging and travel arrangements to their sites so all arrangements for a winter vacation can be made on line. It’s electronic resort shopping, and it is wonderful.

There are some Web sites that are not affiliated with a particular resort or group of ski areas. These sites are more recreation- or industry-based and offer copious amounts of information about winter sports, equipment and general news.

SnowSports Industries America (SIA) recently launched what it calls a suite of Web sites designed to educate and entertain current and potential consumers. There are four sites of the suite:. snowlinkjr.com, winterfeelsgood.com, wintertrails.org and snowlink.com. Each has specific content that targets particular audiences.

SIA’s most ambitious initiative is snowlinkjr.com for children 14 and under. It contains games, educational tools, contests, newsletters, participation incentives, athlete interviews, videos, coloring books and, of course, wallpaper. The site also links consumers with manufacturers and retailers.

Winterfeelsgood.com provides health and fitness information for adults and children. Wintertrails.org highlights snowshoeing. Snowlink.com provides content on gear, how to participate in winter sports, where to go, health tips and more.

DCSki.com is an independent Web site that covers the sport regionally. News items and first-person accounts of trips to local ski areas are highlighted. Onthesnow.com performs a similar service but is national in scope. In the spirit of full disclosure, I need to acknowledge that I regularly contribute news items to onthesnow.com for its Middle Atlantic regional section.

The top cross-country and touring centers in North America are on xcskiresorts.com. Area descriptions and links are available on the site.

Cross-country first — Nordic skiers beat their Alpine cousins to the snow at Snowshoe Mountain Resort. Thanks to 9 inches of snow last weekend, Snowshoe was able to open about 10 kilometers of cross-country trails. The Alpine side of Snowshoe kicked off Friday with 11 trails and three lifts. Contact: 877/441-4386; snowshoemtn.com

Canaan open — The snow that fell on West Virginia’s peaks last week allowed Canaan Valley Resort in Davis to open Friday with three beginner trails and one chairlift. Additional trails and lifts will be added as snow is made on the mountain.

Daily lift ticket prices are $25 for adults, $19 for children until Dec.25, and the resort is offering discount coupons through its Web site. Lodging rates begin at $61 a night. Contact: 800/622-4121; canaanresort.com.

Massanutten running — Massanutten Resort, Harrisonburg, Va., opened last week with four slopes and three lifts. Massanutten’s early-season rates will remain in effect until Christmas, said the resort’s Steve Showalter. Contact: 540/289-9441, 800/207-6277; massresort.com.

White Grass open — Five inches of snow and temperatures in the 20s allowed White Grass Touring Center, Davis, W.Va., to open 5 kilometers of terrain Nov.29, and the skiing has continued since.

White Grass collects snow on its snow farm — a pasture lined with plastic fencing. The fences trap blowing and drifting snow, which is then pushed onto the ski trails and groomed. The operation allows White Grass to have a 2-foot base for skiing with only 5 inches of natural snow. White Grass rents Nordic equipment as well as snowshoes. Contact: 304/866-4114; whitegrass.com.

Ski Chalet’s Demo Days — Ski Chalet has scheduled three Customer Appreciation Demo Days at local resorts: Dec.12, Snowshoe Mountain Resort, W.Va.; Jan.8, Timberline, Davis W.Va.; and Jan.15, Wisp, McHenry Md. Bring your own ski or snowboard boots. Vouchers ($2) are available at Ski Chalet shops in Arlington, 703/521-1700; Chantilly, 703/631-7880; Tysons Corner, 703/761-3040; Gaithersburg, 301/948-5200; and Richmond, 804/527-2900.

Snow Sports appears on Sundays in The Washington Times during the winter. Contact: bclapper@washingtontimes.com.

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