As they have for the past two seasons, budget-minded skiers will drive to local slopes instead of buying plane tickets to destination areas. Which means New England, Lake Tahoe, and Summit County will feel the brunt of weekend travelers, while destinations such as Jackson Hole, Sun Valley, Steamboat, and Big Sky will stay relatively empty. "You could walk right on the tram most of last year," confesses Zahan Billimoria, communications manager at Jackson Hole. "I've never seen it quieter on powder days." But here's the thing: If you plan it right, getting on a plane doesn't have to blow your budget.
If you book with three friends through Jackson Hole's central reservations desk by January 1, you get a free plane ticket for a fourth skier. (Direct flights are available from Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City, Dallas, and L.A.) Drop your bags in resort lodging ($78 per person per night, including lift ticket), at the base of the tram, and head for the Far Drift run, at the south end of Rendezvous Bowl. jacksonhole.com
At Sun Valley, opt for the Stay and Ski Free package (available January 3–March 27), which gets you a room at the Sun Valley Lodge for $129 per person, plus a free ticket for each guest. sunvalley.com
Big Sky offers a three-night stay at the resort's Huntley Lodge, plus breakfast and two days of skiing for two people, for $315. bigskyresort.com.