DENVER, Dec. 9 — Now that snow has arrived throughout the western United States, snowboard and ski tour operators are offering some of the best deals in years for snowboarders who still want to take advantage of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, as well as for travelers who haven’t yet booked a winter vacation.

Many resort destinations throughout the Rocky Mountains have slashed prices on lodging and lift tickets and have included extra values for last-minute vacationers during the normally prime holiday period. As a further enticement, ski areas are extending many of those deals into the New Year.

The Ski Tour Operators Association (SKITOPS), a trade group that represents 25 independent specialty travel companies, can find the best packages and the best snow at over 100 resorts in North America and Europe. And here’s more good news: Most packages do not require advance purchase or minimum stays.

With regular air fares inching upwards, SKITOPS companies can provide clients with discounted or “bulk rate” fares when they buy air transportation with lodging and ground transfers. Consumers save money and get the advice of a seasoned professional when booking through a SKITOPS member. (A complete list of members, their Web sites and phone numbers is available on the Internet at http://www.skitops.com).

Given this year’s later snowfall and anticipated reductions in travel over New Year’s, resorts are offering many deals that haven’t been seen before — and may not be seen again. For example, Keystone offers a free Mountain Passport, good all year for various non-skiing activities such as sleigh rides and ice skating, to travelers who book by December 15. There are valuable incentives at other resorts, as well, and tour operators have a complete list of them.

Typical of the deals being offered are ones that provide an extra night’s lodging and/or an extra day’s skiing. For example, Sportours has a five-night, six-day package to Breckenridge, Colorado that includes lodging at Liftside at The Village, four days of skiing and roundtrip airport transfers at $570 per person, double occupancy. This represents a free night of lodging and a free day of skiing. The package price is effective December 17-25 and January 2-Feb. 17. More information: 800-660-2754.

Moguls Ski and Snowboard Tours has a holiday package in Salt Lake City, Utah, that offers skiing at four resorts. The millennium package includes: seven nights’ lodging at the Marriott Residence Inn (in a studio with full kitchen); five days of lift passes at your choice of Snowbird, Solitude or Brighton; roundtrip airfare; a seven-day skierized Hertz rental car and a free roundtrip shuttle from the hotel to downtown Salt Lake City on New Year’s Eve. Price is $1,239 per person, double occupancy, or $1,099 per person for quad occupancy in a two-bedroom suite. Dates are December 26 through January 2. More information click the TRAVEL DESK button on the left side of this page.

Keystone and Breckenridge are both offered in a unique, two-trips-for-one-price package from Lynx Ski Vacations. Skiers who select either resort over the holidays (December 18-January 2) get 30 percent off normal rates, a voucher for free lift tickets for a second trip after April 2, and 50 percent off lodging rates in April. The price of $939 per person, based on four people in a two-bedroom condominium, includes five nights’ lodging over Christmas and five nights in April, four days of lift tickets over Christmas, free lift tickets in April, and a full-size rental car for both five-day periods. Skiers can elect to stay at a different resort for each travel period. More information: 800-422-5969.

Whistler in British Columbia, Canada, which has been basking in early snowfall, also has promotional rates. Daman-Nelson Travel has a last-minute millennium holiday special for a one-bedroom condo at the Lost Lake Lodge in Whistler for $826 per person, double occupancy — dowwn from the original price of $1,400. More information: 800-34DAMAN (32626).

Any Mountain Tours is offering a Christmas to New Year’s package at Snowmass, Colorado, that includes five nights at the Pokolodi Lodge in a hotel room, four out of five days of skiing, and roundtrip air on United Airlines from Washington D.C., New York City or Boston. The cost is $1,199 per person, double occupancy. Midweek travel is required, and the package is good between December 24 and January 4. More information: 800- 296-2000. For skiers who haven’t yet made travel plans, SKITPS companies are experiencing higher-than-normal bookings for February and March, but January and April still have good availability. Although SKITOPS members can accommodate last-minute plans, the best selection of lodging and dates is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Why Book With Skitops?

– Get the lowest airfare on regularly scheduled carriers to your

destination, without being required making a Saturday stay-over.

– Get the widest variety of accommodations and optional excursions from

companies that have no financial interest in resort real estate.

– Get flexibility in your travel times and trip duration.

– Get objective and up-to-date information on snow depths and skiing

conditions.

– Get custom-tailored trips for your needs.

– Get 24-hour accountability and, if needed, emergency assistance from

people who know and care about the quality of your vacation.

– Get experienced, knowledgeable advice from companies that have spent

years offering the best ski trips possible.

– Get value-priced trips based on group air fares, group accommodations

and group lift tickets – even if you’re not a member of a group.

– Get bookings during the hard-to-get holiday periods and at popular

accommodations that often are not available to the general public.