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A new direct flight to Vail’s ski lifts

Powder skiing at Vail resort in Colorado.

Daniel Milchev

East Coast skiers looking for big mountain thrills get an early Christmas present this year – direct flights to some of Colorado's chicest ski towns.

On Dec. 14, Air Canada begins once-a-week non-stop flights from Toronto to Eagle County Regional Airport – only a 30-minute drive to Beaver Creek, 35 minutes to Vail and 90 minutes to Aspen. That beats the drive in from Denver International, a minimum 21/2-hour slog on mountain highways to Vail, and nearly four hours to Aspen.

"We realized there's a good market here and a good opportunity because nobody else was flying into Vail from Toronto," said Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick.

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A 120-seat Airbus A319 aircraft flies in every Saturday. The same plane shuttles returning skiers home later the same day.

Aspen, a former mining town, is renowned for its celebrity après scene. Vail, the largest resort in the States, is famous for its top notch on-mountain restaurants and amenities (heated gondolas with WiFi anyone?). While boutique Beaver Creek feels like an exclusive gated community: There is a ski in-ski out Ritz, heated sidewalks to clear the ice and escalators to the lifts.

The A319 was chosen, Fitzpatrick said, because "it has pretty good cargo space to carry skis."

The flight leaves Toronto just before 10 a.m., arriving in Colorado at 11:45 local time, which gives hard-core powderhounds a chance to take in a few late runs that same day.

"Canada is in the top four in terms of [our] international markets," said May Lilley, international spokesperson for Vail Resorts. "Canadian visitation to Vail in particular has remained steady over the last few years, and we're seeing significant growth to Beaver Creek."

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