San Francisco skiers and riders can purchase discount lift tickets for Tahoe resorts. REI stores around the Bay Area will begin carrying lift tickets for 11 Tahoe resorts Dec. 1.

Buying tickets in town ahead of time speeds up getting to the slopes as most of the Tahoe resorts offer direct-to-lift tickets through REI. Most of the tickets are also sold at rates a few dollars below ticket window prices. "The discounts run a little cheaper than what people will pay at the resort," Doug Tracey, store manager of the San Francisco REI, told us. "But skiers should also check the resort rates and specials."

The adult full day lift tickets are sold singly at REI for specific Tahoe resorts. Tickets are available for Alpine Meadows, Bear Valley Mountain, Boreal Mountain Resort, Heavenly Mountain Resort, Homewood Mountain Resort, Kirkwood Mountain Resort, Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe, Northstar-at-Tahoe, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Squaw Valley USA, and Sugar Bowl Resort. Young adult and child tickets are also available for Northstar and Sierra-at-Tahoe.

All of the tickets have the direct-to-lift feature, except for those valid at Boreal, Kirkwood, and Mt. Rose. Skiers and snowboarders purchasing lift tickets for those three resorts will need to stop at the ticket window to pick up the lift ticket for the day.

The tickets sold at REI are not date-specific, but some have restrictions on use, so buyers need to read the fine print. "Some have holiday restrictions, but it varies resort to resort," added Tracey. The tickets are valid through the 2010-11 season. They are not restricted for use by the purchaser, but may be given away as gifts.

Lift tickets for the Tahoe resorts are usually sold at REI stores through February. "Plan ahead. Don't wait until the last minute," advised Tracey. "There's always a big rush at the holidays."

The tickets must be purchased at the Customer Service Department in Bay Area REI stores. They are also available at Sacramento REI stores. They are not available for purchase by phone or online.

Lift tickets sold at REI stores are non-refundable and only available to REI members. Lifetime REI memberships are sold at all REI stores for $20.

The San Francisco REI is open 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays, and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays. Some hours expand closer to Christmas.

More information. Or call 415-934-1938.