Ski wars begin to heat up

DENVER (AP) The leaves are gone from the aspens and Gambel oak in the high country, but skiers and snowboarders can still buy discounted ski passes.
The major resorts closest to Denver have extended the deadline for buying the so-called ''buddy passes'' to Nov. 4. Most offers were initially set to expire Sept. 30.
Snowriders will have to pay $40 more than the original offer to get an unrestricted individual pass at Winter Park.
''You can still get a $209 pass if you can find three other people to buy a pass,'' said Joan Christensen, spokeswoman for Winter Park. ''Sales are better this year than last year, and we sold a lot last year.''
Vail says it sales are even with last year, and last year it sold 102,000 passes.
A Copper Mountain pass will be available for $229, only $20 more than it was before the original Sept. 30 deadline. Copper isn't doing buddy passes anymore.
Vail, which was selling passes for $209 for Keystone, Breckenridge and Arapahoe Basin, is now selling them for $249. For $299, snowriders can ski at Vail and Beaver Creek for 10 days.
Loveland, which opened for the season last Thursday, is selling an unrestricted pass for $249 for adults, ages 23-69, $200 for young adults ages, 15-22, and $100 for children ages 6-14.
Resorts are worried that the economic decline and fallout from the Sept. 11 attacks could hurt business, and they are likely to offer even better deals if the season starts off slow.
So far, Christensen said sales are good both in the Denver area and ''in our drive market, which includes Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Omaha, and Dallas we've seen an increase in interest.''
She said there has also been an increase in calls about a train that serves the ski area.
As usual the big question is how much snow will fall, and when. The biggest snowfall so far this year came around Labor Day. ''Today, skies remain dark and cloudy, which is good news,'' she added.
Copper will open Nov. 3, Winter Park the next day. Keystone opens Friday. Breckenridge, Vail and Beaver Creek open Nov. 16.

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