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Avoid Lift Lines and Ski More This Season

Even before baseball's World Series hits Denver in the last weekend of October, two nearby ski resorts are already open.

The first measurable snow fell in the mountains of Colorado and Utah last month -- that means it's high time to start planning ski and snowboarding vacations.

Better yet, plan a trip that doesn't involve fighting through packed parking lots, overflowing lift lines and slopes as busy as a rush-hour freeway.

This year, consider North American slopes a bit off the beaten path, where you'll avoid the biggest crowds and everything that goes with them.

If you have a net worth north of a few million, you can pay a $250,000 initiation fee and pony up annual dues of $16,000 for The Yellowstone Club near Big Sky, Mont. With just 300 members, this resort boasts 10 lifts, 2,100 skiable acres and powder stashes that last for days. The place sees fewer skiers and snowboarders in a week than Vail (MTN) sees on a Wednesday morning.

Not quite in your budget? No worries. You can still enjoy uncrowded trails and short lift lines this winter. As ticket prices continue to soar ($87 a day at Aspen this year) and 30-minute lift waits grow commonplace, you can find the best bang for your skiing and boarding buck at some relatively undiscovered gems.

These mountains fall into two categories. First are the little sisters, near resorts with higher-profile names that draw most of the attention of ski magazines, travel agents and tourists. Then there are the out-of-the-way areas that require a little extra effort to reach. They might not offer as many luxury hotel rooms, nightclubs or high-speed chairlifts, but they do offer a dose of welcome solitude.

East Coast

A classic out-of-the-way mountain, Jay Peak , Vt. ($62), is four hours from Boston but boasts more annual snowfall than any other ski resort in New England. "It's steep, has plenty of powder and not a lot of people find their way there," says Arnie Wilson, the Financial Times ski correspondent who has visited more than 650 resorts worldwide.

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