If you're looking at new skis this season, beware the skis/bindings/poles packages --they can be a good deal or a good deal less than meets the eye.

All major ski manufacturers make special skis for packages. They're less expensive, usually unknown skis. They have not been promoted nationally, generally because they're not top quality. You can identify them by their lack of identification -- you'll have heard of the manufacturer, but the model name will be new to you.

It's a good idea to take the ratings from the ski magazines along with you when you shop; they way you'll know what each manufacturer is promoting. If you don't have the ski magazine available, ask the shop's salesperson to show it to you. If they don't have it, try a store that does.

Don't let the salesperson tell you the package ski is comparable to any nationally advertised model -- if it were comparable, you'd find it compared in the magazines' ratings.

But don't turn up your nose at all ski packages -- several ski shops are putting together packages with nationally advertised models, just to be competitive. These can be a good buy.