You can find out about opportunities to cut costs at major North American ski resorts through the Internet at http://www.hostels.com. The site has links to hostels at ski resorts in the United States and Canada, and some hostels have packages that include accommodations (often in shared rooms), lift tickets, meals, other activities, etc.
At popular Canadian resorts in Alberta and British Columbia you can purchase a variety of hostel packages this winter and spring. At Whistler/Blackcomb in British Columbia hostel accommodations and lift tickets (valid for both mountains) are available from $45 per day. The resort has more than 200 marked trails and the rustic hostel (with log-burning fireplace) is about a 10-minute drive from Whistler Village. call (604) 932-5492 for reservations.
In Alberta travelers can purchase packages that include accommodations at the Banff International hostel (where there's a cafe, fireside lounge, and shared and private bedrooms), a three-area ski pass that is valid for Lake Louise, Sunshine Village or Banff Mt. Norquay, and transportation to the slopes for $51 per day. The packages also include breakfast and a relaxing soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs. Five-day versions are available from $209.
The rates quoted are for members of Hostelling International. For more details and a brochure on hostel ski packages in Alberta and British Columbia, call Hostelling International at (403) 283-5551.
Beginning in April and continuing through the summer, 2,000 bicycles will be available for use by visitors to Copenhagen for free.
Bikes will be placed at special stands near railway and bus stations and key tourist sites. In order to use one you'll need a 20 kroner coin (about $3) to deposit in a slot in the stand. When you return the bike to any stand your deposit will be released.
To discourage theft, the "low-tech" bikes are designed so that their parts will not fit ordinary bikes. To discourage people from keeping bikes for a long time, there is a Bike Patrol staff that monitors their use. The patrol members also assist with minor repairs and make sure that the bikes remain within the city limits.
Zurich is another city that operates a free bike program for visitors, although its system requires your passport as a deposit.
Budget travel guidebooks are good sources for finding about free opportunities at museums, galleries and archeological sites. Some, such as the British Museum in London or the Swiss National Museum in Zurich, are free at any time; others drop their admission charge for specific periods. Key archeological sites in Mexico, such as the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, are free on Sundays. The Prado Museum in Madrid is free 2:30 to 7 p.m. on Saturday and all day Sunday.
Local tourist information offices are another good source of information on freebies. Ask about tours of local factories, such as wineries, breweries and cheese producers. Often they will welcome you for a visit and even provide a free tasting. Check, too, for free entertainment. In Vienna in the summer, free concerts are held on some afternoons in front of City Hall. Hong Kong, for example, provides several helpful tour booklets.
Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer. She can be reached at http://www.izon.com.