Ten Great Resorts for Christmas

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Christmas in a ski resort is like one of those snow globes that you pick up and shake. First, the scene is idyllic. Second, there's snow. For me, those are the two essential ingredients for a real ski-town Christmas. The skiing, and the fact that everyone who really loves the resort is usually in town, are gravy.

The late start of the season and the excess of millennium hype have stalled the Christmas rush this year--so there are still rooms available. There's also a last-ditch chance to pick up someone else's cancellation.

Note, however, that the hotels listed may or may not have a room at the inn during the specific dates you want to stay. Several have cozy restaurants or holiday events that are open to the public, so you can still stop in. Take them as suggestions and hope for the very best--just get going.

While it's safe to say that most ski areas will make an effort to jazz up their villages with lights, wreaths and trees, here are 10 real standouts.

1. Stowe, VT is arguably Vermont's prettiest village. Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing compete with sleigh rides, shopping, and visits to nearby Ben & Jerry's headquarters in nearby Waterbury. The Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa would be a great Christmas lodging choice, as would the Trapp Family Lodge or Topnotch-at-Stowe.

SkiNet Resort Profile and Online Booking

http://www.gostowe.com

800-24-STOWE2. Banff and Lake Louise, Canada are surrounded by the craggy grandeur of the Canadian Rockies. You've got a downtown spruced up for the holidays in Banff, elk in the streets and skiing at Norquay, and great skiing at Sunshine Village and Lake Louise. If you want the creature comforts of Banff, check out the castle-like Banff Springs Hotel and its five star spa, Solace. If it's European ambiance, check into the intimate Relais & Chateaux property, The Post Hotel. If you want a hotel with a jaw-dropping view, look to the Chateau Lake Louise. Whether you choose to go to the hot springs at Banff or take a moonlit sleigh ride around Lake Louise, this is a true Canadian Christmas. And at bargain rates, thanks to the American dollar.

Sunshine Village: SkiNet Resort Profile and Online Booking

Lake Louise: SkiNet Resort Profile and Online Booking

http://www.skibanfflakelouise.com

800-661-14313. Steamboat Springs, CO is perfect for families. After all, family ski trips that offer great value and don't dismantle a budget are hard to find. Starting with their kid's ski free program, Steamboat is great for a cowboy Christmas. Check out the Harbor Hotel and Condominiums, the Sheraton Steamboat Hotel, or the Ptarmigan Inn. Check the kids into Steamboat's award winning ski school and spend the morning working the trails off the Storm Peak Express. Here in cow town meets ski town, you can welcome in a family Christmas, western-style.

SkiNet Resort Profile and Online Booking

http://www.steamboat-ski.com

800-922-27224. Idaho's Sun Valley comes together at that magical point where cowboys, culture, and Hollywood flirt. That meeting of rodeo and studio makes for the West's most unique mountain resort. The Sun Valley Lodge, built in 1936, is still enchanting, from the Duchin Bar to the outdoor ice rink rimmed with twinkling lights--the Lodge's trademark. But the Elkhorn Resort is easier on the budget, as is the Tamarack Lodge. Then think about bundling up for a sleigh ride out to Trail Creek Cabin for dinner.

SkiNet Resort Profile and Online Booking

http://www.sunvalley.com

800-786-8259 5. Vail & Beaver Creek, CO, epitomize the glittery but tasteful ski village life at Christmas. The high life, to be sure, but if you can afford it, few places offer the kind of discrete luxury and pampering found at the Sonnenalp Resort's Bavaria Haus in Vail or at the Hyatt Regency Beaver Creek. On a less pricey level, The Charter in Beaver Creek and the Vail Village Inn are more reasonable choices. But there's no place quite like Vail Village for that cozy, all-enveloping feeling that suggests the best of the holidays. It's all the better, of course, if you've spent the day skiing the China Bowl.

Beaver Creek: SkiNet Resort Profile and Online Booking

Vail: SkiNet Resort Profile and Online Booking

http://www.vailresorts.com

800-525-22576. Christmas in Aspen, CO is the brightly-lit evergreen tree in front of Sardy House, carolers on the streets, and the Caribou Club packed until all hours. Almost everyone, it seems, wants to be in Aspen at Christmas. But while there's little hope of getting into signature properties such as the Little Nell, the Jerome, or the St. Regis, there are still several quaint B&B's, charming inns, and cozy condos that have holiday rooms. You may have to scramble now, but it's worth it to spend Christmas afternoon on the Sun Deck, sunning in your Vuarnet's, taunting your friends via cell phone.

SkiNet Resort Profile and Online Booking

http://www.skiaspen.com

800-262-77367. Squaw Valley, CA, is the wintry antidote to the Bay Area at Christmas. The Resort at Squaw Creek would be the prime choice, but the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe or even the Tahoe City Travelodge would do, if just getting to Squallywood is in your plans. When you meet up with your pals at High Camp to take in the view out at Olympic Valley, no one really cares where you're spending the night anyway. You're there.

SkiNet Resort Profile and Online Booking

http://www.squaw.com

800-545-43508. Jackson Hole, WY, is one of the west's best kept secrets. Holiday visitors can take in the downtown square festooned with light and elk antlers, the high-season hijinks at the Million-Dollar Cowboy bar, and the to-die-for-views of the Tetons. Last-minute Christmas shopping offerings include everything from gimmicky gift shops, to the upscale Coldwater Creek clothing store, to old standbys like the Gap. Stay at Amangani if you gotten at least a million-dollar bonus from your firm. Otherwise, it's the venerable Spring Creek Ranch, the Wort Hotel, or the ski-in, ski-out Snow King Resort. If you're economizing, try the Cowboy Village Log Cabin resort, and a variety of motel options. Wherever you stay, the town is festive, the skiing merely superb. And if the pass is open, head to Targhee for more of it.

SkiNet Resort Profile and Online Booking

http://www.jhsnow.com

888-DEEP-SNOW9. The new Tremblant, Que, Canada looks like it was constructed expressly for Christmas. A stroll through the colorful nouvelle Quebecois base village is an excuse to window shop, check out an ever-expanding array of multi-national restaurants, or drop in on the liveliest apres-ski scene in the East at places like the P'tit Caribou. The Chateau Mont Tremblant is the first choice here, but you can do well at Les Suites de Tremblant or the newest hotel, La Tour des Voyaguers. The American dollar sweetens this deal better than maple syrup.

SkiNet Resort Profile and Online Booking

http://www.tremblant.ca

800-461-871110. Deer Valley, UT does Christmas as perfectly as they grooms the slopes. It's deluxe, it's pampered, and it's impeccably planned. A stroll through Silver Lake Village, with its fashionable shops, restaurants, and hotels, is Deer Valley Christmas personified. If you could stay anywhere, it would be at the Stein Eriksen Lodge, which is not very likely at this date. The Snow Park Condominiums would be another, less-expensive choice, and the Copperbottom Inn in Park City good for those watching their dollars. In fact, a package deal to Park City might be the most economical route to a Deer Valley Christmas. You won't need to get here by reindeer either if you grab one of those empty seats to Salt Lake City now.

Deer Valley: SkiNet Resort Profile and Online Booking

Park City: SkiNet Resort Profile and Online Booking

http://www.parkcitymountain.com

800-424-3337laces like the P'tit Caribou. The Chateau Mont Tremblant is the first choice here, but you can do well at Les Suites de Tremblant or the newest hotel, La Tour des Voyaguers. The American dollar sweetens this deal better than maple syrup.

SkiNet Resort Profile and Online Booking

http://www.tremblant.ca

800-461-871110. Deer Valley, UT does Christmas as perfectly as they grooms the slopes. It's deluxe, it's pampered, and it's impeccably planned. A stroll through Silver Lake Village, with its fashionable shops, restaurants, and hotels, is Deer Valley Christmas personified. If you could stay anywhere, it would be at the Stein Eriksen Lodge, which is not very likely at this date. The Snow Park Condominiums would be another, less-expensive choice, and the Copperbottom Inn in Park City good for those watching their dollars. In fact, a package deal to Park City might be the most economical route to a Deer Valley Christmas. You won't need to get here by reindeer either if you grab one of those empty seats to Salt Lake City now.

Deer Valley: SkiNet Resort Profile and Online Booking

Park City: SkiNet Resort Profile and Online Booking

http://www.parkcitymountain.com

800-424-3337