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Salt Lake City, Utah.

By Vince Font

There’s good reason Utah ski resorts lay claim to having “The Greatest Snow on Earth,” but I’ve always found it’s best not to believe everything you hear until you’ve had a chance to find out for yourself. It’s a great excuse to travel, right? You’ll find my top picks below at or near top-notch Utah ski resorts in Big Cottonwood Canyon:  Solitude Mountain Resort and Brighton Resort. Both are perfect for families, more intimate than crowded, plus Brighton offers night skiing Tuesday -Saturday, with kids under seven skiing free.

If you’re ready to bundle the fantastic Utah powder with a cheap ski vacation getaway, don’t look further than these top five Utah ski vacation steals:

1. I’ve always said you can tell the quality of a ski run by the view you get from its lift ride during the off season, and Solitude Mountain’s got that in spades. Even if you happen to be in the area during summer, it’s a beautiful place to take the family. But it’s even better during winter, where you can find some excellent cheap ski deals. Solitude Resort Lodging is a small but cozy village perfectly situated next to Solitude Mountain Resort. The resort is currently offering cheap ski vacation packages for the 2010/2011 snow season if you book early — buy three nights, get the fourth free. If I were you I’d break out the calendar and start making plans.

The Solitude Resort, Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah.

Cheap steal: Book early for the cheapest ski package deals! Right now on CheapTickets, book your ski vacation package early or by January 31, 2011, and you can save up to 40%.

2. The Inn at Solitude
This is one of those Utah ski resorts that’s always reminded me of the insides of a European snow globe, only blown up to life-size proportion and transplanted to Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. You want to talk cozy? The Inn at Solitude puts you right in the heart of the ski village, so all you have to do is step outside and you’re off. The ski in/out access ensures you can get your spa tub or sauna action on within seconds of being on the slopes. It’s also in close proximity to the Brighton Resort (2.3 miles), which offers night skiing Monday through Saturday and lets the little ones under 7 ski for free. The Inn at Solitude is also offering a fourth night free when you book three nights for the 2010/2011 ski season, but you must book by December 15, 2010.

3. Residence Inn by Marriott
If you traveling with the entire brood or otherwise looking to spread out, stay in the spacious rooms at the Residence Inn. Those who like to ski will be close to all the action of the slopes and Big Cottonwood Canyon ski resorts. And those looking for a break from the slopes can shop and dine at the nearby South Towne Mall and restaurants. Book early and you’ll get four nights for the price of three this season.

Monaco Salt Lake City, a Kimpton Hotel.

4. Little America Hotel
If you’re interested in seeing the city while you’re taking a break from the slopes, there’s a great place in downtown Salt Lake called the Little America Hotel just 40 minutes from the ski resorts. Don’t let the name fool you — at 17 stories tall and 850 rooms, it’s not very little. This place is so cool even the locals book stays for anniversaries and special occasions. But be warned, once you step foot inside you might not want to leave. With two great restaurants, a café, a sports bar, the biggest indoor/outdoor pool in the city, and luxurious rooms (I hate to use the word, but in this case it fits) that come with plasma TVs, your ski passes could end up going to waste. One word: discipline.

5. Monaco Salt Lake City, a Kimpton Hotel
Wile you take to the hills, let the non-skiers in your family prefer enjoy a getaway at this trendy, boutique hotel in downtown Salt Lake City is just the ticket. It’s hip ambiance is a departure from the rustic lodge appeal, and, after a day on the slopes, you’ll have your pick of amazing nearby restaurants to warm up, wine and dine.

Cheap steal: Good planning is essential to vacationing without breaking the bank. Maximize your chances of finding cheap flights and cheap hotels by booking everything together in a single vacation package.

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Vince Font is a freelance writer born in Puerto Rico, raised in Maryland, schooled in California and currently escaped to Utah. When not dreaming of the possibilities of interstellar travel, he’s on the hunt for weird, wacky, and off-the-beaten-track vacation destinations. Next stop: The Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast.

Tagged: Tips & advice, Vacation packages

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