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It may not be in full swing yet, but an early blast of snow already has kick-started the ski season in Garmisch, Germany, an auspicious omen for winter sports enthusiasts eager to hit the slopes.

With some 120 centimeters of snow coating the Zugspitze — Germany’s highest peak — by early November, the folks at Edelweiss Lodge and Resort are gearing up for another season with an assortment of package deals for rooms, lessons and equipment.

"Skiing is already in effect in Garmisch," said Brad Hays, a resort spokesman. "November is the month where people start to think of the winter season and we’re seeing the reservations come in."

The ski season at the Armed Forces Recreation Center complex begins in earnest following Thanksgiving weekend.

While the time around the Christmas holiday is already booked, there’s still space available for early December and throughout January, February and March, Hays said.

Each year, there usually is a new feature for visitors to Edelweiss, which serves Department of Defense personnel and their families. Last year, skiers were treated to a new lift that runs almost directly to the lodge.

This year, another lift was added. The slow and bouncy lift, dubbed the "Disney Chair" by Americans, has been replaced by the six-man, high-speed Kandahar Express.

"They took down the old one last winter and built this over the summer. It provides longer runs and goes farther down than the old lift," Hays said.

The new German-managed lift isn’t tied to the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Instead, the Kandahar draws its name from skiing lore. Back in 1911, one of the first downhill skiing races was called the "Roberts of Kandahar Challenge Cup" in honor of a British field marshal who conducted a military campaign in Afghanistan.

Many of the improvements to the skiing infrastructure that have been made in recent years are connected to a modern-day racing event — the International Ski Federation’s Alpine World Ski Championships, which will be held in Garmisch in 2011.

"The event is like the Olympics of skiing," Hays said.

As part of playing host, the town of Garmisch also has increased its artificial snow-making capability during recent seasons to go along with newer ski lifts in place. Valley runs can be fully snowpacked by machines within 70 hours, ensuring that skiing is possible even if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

"Snow making, we’re seeing more capability year after year," Hays said.

The military resort is situated near the Hausberg Sports Lodge, where Edelweiss customers store and change into their gear. From there, skiers can board lifts up the mountain.

For beginners not ready for the steep climb, the lodge also has its own slope set aside for beginners. While older novices graduate to steeper trails during the course of the week, youngsters are able to spend all their time within the resort’s protective surroundings.

Instructors are on hand to provide classes for all levels, from beginner to expert.

Many of the usual Edelweiss ski deals are once again available. "This is the most affordable ski package in Europe," Hays said.

The deals include:

• Ski Week, which begins the week of Dec. 14 and continues into March. The package features five days of professional instruction, transportation to and from the ski area, lift passes for appropriate slopes and ski or snowboard rental equipment. The cost is $419 for adults and $329 for youths.

• Shorter packages also are available. A four-day program runs $349 for adults and $269 for youths. Two-day programs costs $189 for adults and $155 for youths. Daily lessons and special children’s packages also are among the options.

For Ski Week reservations, contact the Edelweiss Vacation Planning Center at (+49) (0) 08821-9440. For information about daily lessons, contact the Hausberg Lodge at (+49) (0) 8821-729401.

For more on the Edelweiss resort and its other programs, including recreation programs, guided tours and programs for children, see "Activities" on the resort’s Web site, www. edelweisslodgeandresort.com.

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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