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
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.