Living in a snowy, mountainous state, one quickly learns that it's essential to embrace the snow or risk a serious case of cabin fever. And that's why Vermonters, Coloradans and others living near ski slopes quickly pick up on the secrets of alpine resorts to avoid getting snowed by high rates and inaccurate snow coverage reports.

It's important to realize that, like shopping in general, one never has to pay the MSRP for lift tickets. Discounts are to be had, although it can take a bit of digging and planning to find them, according to SmartMoney magazine.

Check out Cheap Skiing Guide, which lists all the discounts and special deals at resorts in nine states. The popular Vermont resort of Stowe, for instance, offers a vacation rewards program that shaves 15% off multi-day lift tickets when visitors buy at least one week ahead.

There are also sites such as Liftopia.com where skiiers can buy lift tickets at discounts of 30% to 80% only 24 hours in advance.

Once you've saved some money on getting up the mountain, it's important to realize that you might not be getting all that the resort promises. Why not? Ski resorts are notoriously unreliable when it comes to the accuracy of their snow reports.

A recent study from Dartmouth College researchers confirmed what most snow-sport enthusiasts have long suspected: resorts tend to report higher snowfall on the weekends (when people are more likely to travel to hit the slopes), while weather data failed to support the snowfalls reported by the ski areas.

So what's the solution for skiers who want to make sure their dollars aren't going to waste? Check SkiReport.com, which includes first-hand reports from skiiers.

But for true savings, key into something known and practiced by thrifty Vermonters: Ditch the alpine skis in favor of cross-country skis. The equipment costs less, and cross-country skiing can be had for free in a number of places (in Burlington, Vt., for example, locals take to the country club's hills for a free spin).

For a groomed experience, there are cross-country areas such as Catamount Outdoor Family Center, about 15 minutes west of Burlington, Vt., where a full day of skiing costs $18.

The Trapp Family Lodge (yes, that's the same family from "The Sound of Music") in Stowe, Vt. is another favorite of locals, where a day of skiing its roughly 30 miles of groomed cross-country trails will put you back $22. Plus, for fitness freaks, even moderate cross-country skiing burns more calories than downhill racing.

Whatever snow sport you choose, make sure you're prepared to enjoy the trails to their fullest.

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