Head to your nearest ski and snowboard show for the best information on planning your upcoming winter days, weekends, and weeks. You'll also save money that way.

That is the advice from Judy Gray, who for 31 years has been producing ski shows, now ski and snowboard shows, as one of the heads of Ski Dazzle.

Ski Dazzle is set in Chicago Nov. 5, 6 and 7; Sacramento, Nov. 20 and 21; and Los Angeles, Dec. 2, 3, 4 and 5.

She resists the idea that ski shows are basically an opportunity to see and purchase clothing and gear. Use your local ski show to plan your snow-bound travel, she said.

"While information seems to be everywhere," Gray said, "especially on the Internet, nothing replaces face-to-face contact.

"Whether you're talking a single, a couple, a family or a small group, the resort people have great money-saving programs you haven't thought of."

Gray said, "Although information is available on the Internet or in magazines, a face-to-face connection with resort experts at the show can get your questions answered on the spot. Budget is always important and you can save up to hundreds of dollars with a package or a special promotion that suits you.

"Asking the right questions when you visit the resorts at the show is important, so if you come to the show armed with a list of your specific travel needs, then resort and travel experts can more efficiently find you a program that saves you time and money."

Gray has more specifics. "Most basic packages include lifts and lodging, but are you interested in lessons or equipment rental or, perhaps, you need children's programs or day care? Do they have a kids stay free or ski/ride free program?

"Ask for information about any meals included with lodging or if they offer a dine-around program. Many innovative packages included added-value extras for off-mountain activities like sleigh rides or skating. Plus discounts at retail stores or spa options for non-skiers/riders.  Little extras, included for free or at a nominal charge, may add up to big savings and make for an even more memorable vacation."

Here's another tip from Gray: "Whether you fly or drive, and you take your own equipment, ask if overnight tuning services might be included or available at a reduced rate at your lodging or resort destination  If you fly to a resort, ask for free or money-savings ground transfers so you don't have to drive, or car rental packages if you really need a car once you are there.  Another popular option for air travelers, which might save you money on baggage charges and offer convenience, is shipping your own equipment ahead of your arrival.

Go prepared, Gray insisted. "Make up your own list of questions to save time and make the most of your vacation dollars at the show. Then keep an open mind, as you might discover a new resort destination is more affordable than ever and be pleasantly surprised at how much you can save when you speak directly with the resort or travel exhibitors."

"They are passionate about their resorts," Gray said, adding, "They bring the mountain to the city where you live."

You won't need even a pencil and notebook. "Most resorts have hand-outs, and most exhibitors can provide a bag."

Ski Dazzle exhibitors typically include at least one-third resorts and other travel provider exhibitors.

Catherine Lacasse at Station Mont Tremblant sends two representatives to the Toronto show. "Most people (who visit the booth) know about Tremblant, so what they want to talk about is what's new, and what are the best deals, how can they save money at Tremblant."

Gray summed it up: "The most important thing is get out there."

Check out the OnTheSnow Ski Show Guide for details and dates on shows throughout North America and the UK.

More information