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How to ski for less this winter

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If I may borrow a phrase: Winter is coming. And with that come holidays, family gatherings and vacation time. Ski vacations are certainly popular during the winter months, but they’re not always easy to plan. Furthermore, prepping for a ski getaway can vary wildly, depending on whether you’re a single professional or a couple with children; if you’re hemmed in by specific dates or have a good deal of flexibility in your schedule. Below are tips for your next ski trip no matter what your profile—and while it won’t necessarily be cheap, there are ways to make it more affordable.

The young professional

You are adventurous, have some expendable income and, more important, have nothing to prevent you from getting away spontaneously for the weekend. Flexibility is your friend when it comes to planning your ski vacation, and it will help you target some good deals.

Consider booking a package

Sites like Expedia have pages that showcase ski-themed hotel and hotel-and-flight package deals. The available deals won’t always be right for you, but make a habit of checking every now then for bargains that fit what you’re looking for. You can search by popular ski locales, like Park City, Utah, or Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Buying a flight and hotel room together can often yield heftier savings. A quick search led me to a four-night stay in early December at the Winter Park Mountain Lodge west of Denver, just across the highway from the Winter Park Resort, for about $400 (U.S.) including non-stop airfare from Los Angeles. The price represents a $60 savings over booking flight and hotel separately.

Embrace technology, but use it wisely

I enjoyed playing with the Hipmunk chat application Hello Hipmunk, which integrates into Facebook Messenger, Slack and Skype. You can ask the chat bot to search for the cheapest flights to a given destination within a period of time. For example, I searched for cheapest round-trip flights between Chicago and Aspen for a three-night period between Dec. 1 and Jan. 31. The results were helpful, letting me know that the cheapest flight (barring one with a 12-hour layover in Los Angeles) would be for $382 from Jan. 5 to Jan. 8.

Unfortunately, when I proceeded to ask for that flight option, I actually received a $512 flight — the least expensive non-stop flight that was not basic economy (no seat assignments or changes allowed). I was able to easily find the $382 flight (which had stops in Salt Lake City) on Momondo and Google Flights, but it was a hiccup nonetheless.

Some travel apps not only provide you with the means to purchase flights and hotels but also give you ideas for your getaways, too. The app Hitlist does this, with curated lists of destinations, some based on categories, including “world’s ultimate ski destinations,” with suggestions like Banff, Alberta.

Users can get ideas from the app and then further whittle down their preferences. For example, I set New York City as my home and looked for three-day getaways to Salt Lake City that began on either a Friday or a Saturday. The app yielded a slew of options, one of which was a $326 flight on JetBlue for the first weekend in December.

But no app is perfect. When I went to book the flight, the price jumped to $362. During the course of trying different bookings, I encountered inconsistencies with pricing and availability on the app. It was a valuable lesson: It never hurts to cross-reference your in-app or online findings with another site, or directly with an airline or hotel.

The family with school-age children

You’re looking to get away with the entire family but are somewhat hemmed in by school vacations and swim practice. You’ll likely need to pounce the moment a good deal arises. Another wrinkle: You’re competing with thousands of other parents who are looking to get away at the same time, which will likely include the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Set your price alerts

Sites like Kayak, Skyscanner, Hopper and Google Flights have alerts that will track flight prices and notify you of changes. On the flight results page, simply elect to track or follow the prices, and you’ll receive email or mobile phone notifications. Hopper and Kayak will even advise you on the results page whether to buy tickets now or wait for a better deal.

If you’re watching a particular route or date range closely, I recommend enabling push notifications on your phone — when prices drop, they don’t always last very long. Hopper and Kayak also allow you to set alerts for hotel rooms, in addition to flights.

Target places with deals for children

Vacationing with children can certainly be expensive. A ski vacation needn’t burden the wallet, however, given the number of opportunities for kids to get free lift tickets or ones at a greatly reduced cost. In New York, third- and fourth-graders can receive three free lift tickets from a selection of over two dozen resorts in the state (and you don’t have to be from New York to take advantage of this). The program, through I Ski NY, grants eligible children the free tickets with the purchase of adult tickets (there is a $27 processing fee). Several other states, including Pennsylvania, Utah and Vermont, have similar programs that grant children’s lift tickets for a nominal fee when applied for ahead of time.

Individual resorts have their own deals, as well. At June Mountain, near Yosemite National Park, children ages 12 and under always receive free lift tickets. Keystone Resort in Colorado allows children 12 and under to ski for free with a stay of two nights or longer. The popular Mammoth Mountain isn’t quite as generous, but even they have a deal: Children age 4 and under, and seniors 80 and above ski for free.

Book early

While many early-bird, ski-package specials have deadlines in the summer, it’s not too late to find a deal for booking early. Even popular resorts like Whistler Blackcomb and Aspen Snowmass offer reduced lodging rates for those who are willing to make a commitment. When you know you’re working with firm dates, it can be a good idea to book as far in advance as possible.

The flexible freelancer

You work a lot, but your main requirements are a laptop and good internet connection. Carving out a week — or even two — for a winter sports getaway isn’t entirely out of the question. Take advantage of the time and flexibility you have to get the biggest bang for your buck.

Consider getting a pass

A one-day lift pass right after Christmas at Big Bear Mountain Resort in California will run you nearly $90. A season pass, on the other hand, will cost $399. If you plan to ski for more than four or five days during the winter season, buying a season pass makes sense.

And you don’t have to be locked into just one resort. If you’re looking for some variety in your skiing, there are also multi-mountain passes available, the largest of which are offered by Epic Pass ($949) and Ikon Pass ($1,049). Both passes grant unlimited access to some of the finest skiing on the continent. Ikon Pass lets you ski as much as you want at Winter Park, Steamboat and Mammoth, among other resorts. Epic Pass grants unlimited skiing at Vail, Whistler Blackcomb and Park City, among others. A more curated pass, Mountain Collective, grants two days each at 17 locations across North America, including Alta, Snowbird and Mammoth ($469).

Consider lesser-known resorts

Sure: Stowe, Telluride and Snowmass are splashy names that everyone in the skiing community has heard of. They’re not, however, particularly cheap. According to a study conducted by the website HomeToGo, the average cost of a day of skiing — including equipment, lift ticket and accommodation, is nearly $450 per person at Aspen Snowmass. At Afton Alps, however, a more modest resort on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, the cost is less than half that: only $179. (It’s worth noting that the PAF, or Pure Awesomeness Factor, from Z Rankings, a way to measure the quality of a ski resort, is 87.5 at Snowmass and just 27.9 at Afton Alps.) Look into locations you may not have considered, like Mount Hood in Oregon or Mount Baker in Washington, for more affordable skiing.

In general, though, bargain hunters should look north to Canada. Near Vancouver at Whistler Blackcomb, one of the largest and most well-regarded ski resorts in North America, the price of a day of skiing is just $234 — much less than at many of the big Colorado or Utah resorts. And at Fernie Alpine Resort, about three hours south of Calgary, the deals are even better. I searched for a five-night holiday in January for two people, and the total came out to around $150 per night, per person — that includes lodging, lift tickets and equipment rental for five straight days.

A ski vacation is unlikely to be a steal, no matter how you look at it. But with the right approach, you can avoid putting too much of a freeze on your finances.

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Travel & Escape

Why your hotel mattress feels like heaven (and how to bring that feeling home)

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(NC) Choosing the right mattress is a long-term investment in your health and well-being. To make a good choice for your home, take a cue from luxury hotel-room beds, which are designed to support the sound sleep of tens of thousands of guests, 365 nights a year.

“When we’re shopping for a mattress, we do lab testing, identify the best materials, bring in multiple mattress samples and have our associates test them,” explains David Rizzo, who works for Marriott International. “We ask for ratings on comfort level, firmness, body support and movement disruption. It takes 12 to 18 months just to research and select materials.”

Here, he shares his tips to pick the perfect mattress for your best sleep:

Understand your needs. People have different food and exercise preferences, as well as different sleep cycles. So, it’s no surprise that everyone has unique mattress preferences. Not sure whether a firm or a soft mattress is better? Rizzo says the best gauge is to ask yourself, “Do I wake up with aches and pains?” If the answer is no, you’re golden.

Foam versus spring. All mattresses have a core that is made up foam or innersprings or a combination of the two. Today’s foam-core mattresses contain memory foam — a material engineered by NASA to keep astronauts comfortable in their seats. It’s special because it retains or “remembers” its shape, yielding to pressure from the sleeper’s body, then bouncing back once the pressure is removed.

An innerspring mattress has an encased array of springs with individual coils that are connected by a single helical wire. This wire creates continuous movement across the coil that minimizes disruption if the mattress is disturbed, such as by a restless sleeper. According to Rizzo, the innerspring is “bouncier.”

Temperature preference. Consider how warm or cool you like to sleep, and factor in the construction of the mattress to find one with a temperature that suits you. The air space engineered into an innerspring mattress promotes ventilation, which some people find keeps them pleasantly cool. To accomplish the same purpose with a foam mattress (or the foam layer of an innerspring) it may be infused with metal, usually silver or copper, to help dissipate heat and humidity.

Need to test out the right mattress for your needs? Find the right fit during your next trip by booking your stay at marriott.com.

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Travel & Escape

How to make the most of summer travel

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(NC) One of the best parts of our short Canadian summers is the opportunity to enjoy them a little bit extra on long weekends. If you need ideas, check out these creative things to do whether you decide to stay in town or go away.

Do a dinner crawl. Pub crawls are fun for couples, friends and also families with older kids. For an exciting twist that stretches your dollars and lets you taste food from several spots before you get too full, try a dinner crawl. Eat apps at one restaurant, mains at another and dessert at another.

Go on a mini getaway. You don’t need to go very far to enjoy a vacation – exploring a Canadian city over a summer weekend is great way to treat yourself to a holiday. Whether it’s checking out the museums in Toronto or the parks in Vancouver, there’s something for everyone. For upgraded benefits, special experiences and the best rates guaranteed, join Marriott Bonvoy and book direct on Marriott.com.

Host a potluck. Perfect whether you’re staying at home or going to your cottage, gather friends and family together for some food and fun. A potluck is an easy and affordable way to host a big get-together and lets everyone try something new and swap recipes. Make the festivities extra special with a fireworks potluck, too – ask everyone to bring some fireworks or sparklers and put on a light show. Just be sure to follow local regulations for consumer fireworks.

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Travel & Escape

Lottoland: Here’s why Canadians love it!

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Lotteries have been in existence for many centuries now and it’s an open secret that most people enjoy playing a good lottery.

Asides from gauging your own luck, the thrill of playing, the anticipation of the results and the big wins every now and then is something most people look forward to. Since 1982, the lottery has been in Canada, but now there is a way to play both the Lotto and other international lotteries from Canada, all from the comfort of your home.

With Lottoland, all you need to do is register and get access to numerous international lotteries right from their website. The easy-to-use interface has all the information you need, and great amount of care has been taken to ensure that the online experience is similar—and even better—than if players were to visit each location personally.

The Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries are hitting record highs with their prize money, in what the organizers claim to be the largest jackpot in the history of the world. However, the U.S. has gambling laws that are state controlled and buying your ticket through an online broker can be considered gambling.

“No one except the lottery or their licensed retailers can sell a lottery ticket. No one. Not even us. No one. No, not even that website. Or that one,” Powerball’s website says.

Therefore, to stand a chance to win the $1.5 billion-dollar lottery jackpot it means you have to purchase your lottery tickets directly from a licensed retailer such as Lottoland.

Since 2013, Lottoland has been operating in Canada, rapidly growing in popularity amongst Canadians. Due to its easy of use and instant access to lotteries that were previously considered inaccessible—as Canadians had to travel all the way to the U.S. to purchase tickets in the past—Lottoland has attracted lots of visitors.

Currently, there about 8-million players on Lottoland, a figure that points to the reliability of the website.

One of the core values of Lottoland is transparency and that’s why a quick search on the website would show you a list of all of their winners. Recently, a Lottoland customer was awarded a world-record fee of $137 million CND.

Also, due to the incredibly slim chances of winning the grand prize not everyone would take home mega-dollar winnings, but there are substantial winnings every day.

Securing your information online is usually one important factor when registering on any platform and as the site explains, “Lottoland works very hard to verify your information.”

The site has a multi-verification process that will ensure that you confirm your identity and age before giving you a pay-out. However, in the rare case that a player has immediate luck and wins a lottery before completing the verification process, Lottoland will hold on to the winnings until they complete your verification.

While this might seem like a tedious process, it is very important as these safety features would ensure that your information wasn’t stolen and ultimately your winning routed to another account.

Lottoland is licensed with the National Supervisory Bodies For Lotteries in several countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Ireland and Australia—where it is called a wagering license. Typically, most gaming companies don’t establish insurance companies as it entails that their activities have to be transparent and the must be highly reputable in the industry.

Nonetheless, Lottoland has no issues meeting up to these standards as they have established themselves as the only gaming sector company who has its own insurance company—an added advantage for new and existing users.

Lotteries aren’t the only games Canadians enjoy playing and Lottoland recognizes this by providing players with other types of gaming. As an industry leader, video designers of online games often make them their first choice when it comes to publishing their works.

Online games such as slots, blackjack, video poker, baccarat, keno, scratchoffs, roulette and many others are always on offer at the Lottoland Casino. There’s also the option of playing with a live dealer and a total of over 100 games.

Lottoland has received numerous rave reviews from its growing list of satisfied customer and their responsive customer service agents are always available to answer any questions users may have, along with solving challenges they may have encountered.

More and more Canadians are trooping to Lottoland in droves due to the unique experience of going to a casino without having to leave the comfort of their homes.

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