TRAVEL Q&A

Hot and Cold in Colorado

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By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 12, 2006

Q. We are planning a family reunion in Denver for the week between Christmas and New Year's. We plan to go skiing and enjoy the hot springs. Can you suggest a ski resort near hot springs, and how to get the best deal on ski lift near hot springs tickets?

Ngan-Ha Do, Gaithersburg

A. In Colorado, skiing and soaking go as well together as moguls and jumping. The Rocky Mountain State has numerous places to take the thermal waters, before or after a day on the slopes, but the best-known springs are near the Steamboat ski resort in Steamboat Springs, 160 miles northwest of Denver. "Steamboat is a great family mountain," says Molly Cuffe, spokeswoman of Colorado Ski Country USA ( http://www.coloradoski.com/ ), a Denver trade association that represents 26 Colorado ski resorts. "Strawberry Park is a half-hour from the resort, and they have pools of different temperatures."

Strawberry Park Hot Springs (970-879-0342, http://www.strawberryhotsprings.com/ ) is about seven miles from downtown Steamboat, and shuttles run between the resort and the springs. Hot Springs Adventures, for example, has daily tours for $30, which include transport and a 1 1/2 -hour soak. Be warned, though, that children are not allowed in the springs after dark, when clothing is optional. Closer to the resort, the Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Center's Downtown Hot Springs Pool and Waterslide offers three hot pools, an Olympic-size lap pool and a 350-foot waterslide. Day rates range from $3.50 to $15.

For savings, Cuffe suggests buying multiple day tickets and lodging packages. "During the peak holiday times, there are some deals, but you must book early," she says. For instance, Steamboat offers an Early Rewards package that takes up to 15 percent off accommodations and tickets if you book by Nov. 20. Additionally, children under age 12 ski free when a parent purchases a five-day pass ($405). Info: 970-871-5252, http://www.steamboat.com/ .

If you prefer to use Denver as your base, the Ski Train (303-296-4754, http://www.skitrain.com/ ; from $44 per person) runs between downtown and the Winter Park and Mary Jane ski areas. The Hot Sulphur Springs Resort and Spa (800-510-6235, http://www.hotsulphursprings.com/ ) is a half-hour west of Winter Park and 10 minutes from the Sol Vista Ski Area. Other ski-and-soak pairings in Colorado include Glenwood Springs, which has the Hot Springs Lodge and Pool and, for skiing, Sunlight Mountain Resort and Aspen; Eldorado Hot Springs, near the Eldora Ski Area in Boulder; Indian Springs in Idaho Springs, on the route from Denver to Breckenridge, Keystone and other Summit County resorts; Ouray Hot Springs, by the Silverton Ski Area; and Pagosa Springs and the Wolf Creek Ski Area. Some of the resorts, such as Pagosa, offer ski, swim and stay packages.

Is there a way to go through the Panama Canal with only minimal cruising on either end?

Alice Tennies, Annapolis

Visitors who want to cruise the Panama Canal don't have to travel across oceans to experience the waterway. Many outfitters, such as Panama Travel Experts (866-637-8871, http://www.panamatravelexperts.com/ ) and Panama Jones (888-726-2621, http://www.panamacanal.com/ ), offer half- or full-day canal tours.

The half-day trip takes four to five hours; the full-day tour runs about nine hours. Both cruises start at the Flamenco Island Cruise Terminal in Panama City, but only the half-day tour goes round trip by boat; the longer trip passes through the Gatun Locks, then shuttles guests back to the original port by motorcoach. Tours run only on Saturdays, and the coast-to-coast trip is offered only once a month. Cost is $260 per person based on two passengers for the full day and $207 for the partial tour.

How do I get from Cancun to Cozumel, and can I do it for under $200?

Susan Grodsky, Potomac

With $200, you can go back and forth between the two Mexican resort areas and still have enough money left over for margaritas. Daily ferries run between Playa del Carmen, about an hour by car from Cancun, and the island of Cozumel. The boats take 30 to 45 minutes to cross and cost about $10 each way. See the Cozumel Tourism Promotion Trust ( http://www.islacozumel.com.mx/ ) for information.

To reach the Playa del Carmen port from the Cancun airport, you have a few choices: authorized cab (about $60 one way), minivan ($15) or airport shuttle bus ($6). Numerous airlines, such as Mexicana, also fly from Cancun to Cozumel, but you might end up paying several hundred dollars.

Postscript

John Flood of Vienna has some recommendations for hotel day rooms near New York's JFK airport (Nov. 5). In an e-mail, Flood suggested joining a frequent guest program: "Hotels like to please their repeat customers and that could lead to getting a day room that is not going to be available to the general public. If this fails, you can always check your bags for the day with the bellman." In addition, he writes, "if you need certainty prior to the day of travel, consider an online booking service like Priceline to snag the room for 24 hours at a discounted rate."

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost.com) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company


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