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  Texans Fly & Drive...
 in droves to their favorite ski areas in the mountain west. Texans leave the state to hit the slopes. Despite its vastness and variety, one thing Texas does not have is snow-covered mountains. Fortunately for Texas skiers, however, some of the best ski areas in the nation are less than a three-hour flight away, and in some parts of the state within driving distance.

Texans give some ski areas a major portion of their business. For Southwest Vacations, which packages deals with Southwest Airlines, Texans make up nearly 70 percent of the ski business to New Mexico, nearly half of its traffic to the Lake Tahoe area in California and Nevada, and nearly a fifth of its ski traffic into Salt Lake City. Texas skiers also are among the top five groups at Aspen, which pulls in skiers from around the world.

Large numbers of Texans also ski Salt Lake City and Canadian resorts such as Whistler/Blackcomb. Flights abound and in an era when airlines are still reeling, airlines are still adding flights for skiers out of Texas Cities. Continental introduced nonstop service from Houston into Durango in Colorado this year, for example. Continental also offers nonstop daily service from Texas airports to Vail, Telluride and Steamboat Springs. United has nonstop service out of Dallas/Fort Worth into Aspen. American also offers non-stops into Telluride.

Texas skiers can also opt for charter service through Dallas-based Adventure Tours USA directly into Durango. Tour operator Mountain Vacations sells packages with nonstop flights to Durango and Gunnison, the gateway to Crested Butte, another popular Texan ski resort.

Behind the wheel skiers in western Texas often drive to southern Colorado and New Mexico ski areas such as Taos and Angel Fire in five or six hours. Even Dallas is within a day's drive albeit a hefty 10 hours. People from Austin and Houston can make the road trip in two easy days of driving. But thats close enough to make Texas the No. 1 market for Taos and Crested Butte, both of which have been offering aggressively priced packages to skiers in Texas. Snowboarders take note: it's skiers only at Taos, and a large number of them are telemark skiers.

Ski areas are also trying to attract Texans with discounts. Continental Vacations, which packages tours with Continental Airlines flights, has a five-night, four-day package to Durango, including air, ski lift and accommodations. Aspen is offering $39 lift tickets during its second annual Spring Jam, April 1-14, and e-mails last-minute specials on lodging and lift tickets. Mountain Vacations has three-night packages to popular resorts such as Steamboat, Copper Mountain and Crested Butte.

These resorts offer Texans one thing they're used to: wide open spaces. Aspen Snowmass has more than 5,000 acres of skiable terrain. Telluride has this year doubled the amount of its skiable terrain by opening Prospect Bowl, with 733 acres. Much of it is intermediate Telluride has been known for its expert skiing and is served by three new high-speed quad chairs. Taos has added more runs through the trees.

In all Texans bring a lot to the Ski Areas of New Mexico and Colorado, most of all their money.

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