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WORD OF MOUTH: A Few of My Favorite Things


Well, ’tis the season. So here are a selection of gifts for travelers and a charitable way to use all of those frequent flier miles that you’ve accumulated.

Galen Rowell was one of my favorite outdoor photographers and now 180 of his greatest pictures have been collected in "Galen Rowell: A Retrospective," compiled by the editors of Sierra Club Books ($50). Whether he was photographing Tibet, the American West or Patagonia, Rowell not only got the story but created a work of art in the process. Rowell2_1

Anyone who loves exceptional photography that focuses on mountains, nature and climbers would love this book.

John Fry is a former editor of Ski magazine and probably has a deeper knowledge of the sport of skiing than anyone else in the country. Which makes him the perfect author for "The Story of Modern Skiing," (University Press of New England; $27.95) an exhaustive look at the sport’s origins and where it stands today. Fry

He covers everyone from Sir Arnold Lunn, who created slalom in 1922, to film maker Warren Miller and freestyle skiers like Suzy Chaffee. You’ll learn what it takes to design a good ski village, about ski racers like Bode Miller and Picabo Street, and how skiing changed the Olympics. Fry’s rarefied position at the center of the sport for the better part of the past 50 years makes him the perfect writer for this endeavor.

For the Italophile on your list, there’s Dream of Italy, a newsletter devoted to all thing Italian. For editor/publisher Kathy McCabe, it is clearly a labor of love. You might think you know Italy but McCabe unearths deserving restaurants and hotels that fall below the radar of the glossy travel mags. Look for regional destination stories, restaurant info, hotel reviews and stories on wine, spas and cooking schools. Dream

Recent issues were devoted to the Amalfi coast, the Calabrian resort of Tropea and the entire Lakes district. The newsletter is published 10 times yearly and costs $69 a year on the web, $79 for a hard copy. And as an incentive to subscribe, she’s including a free copy of Dream of Italy ‘s Collected Florence, an e-guidebook with a value of $39.

I have long been a fan of High Sierra’s luggage for two reasons: it’s rugged (it can withstand the most gregarious baggage handlers and their attempts to dismember it) and it’s affordable. A case in point is their new Level NL 1148 carry-on wheeled upright bag (22 x 14 x 9.5 inches), which has already become my favorite bag.Bag

Not only can you jam it with stuff but there’s even a padded sleeve designed to protect your 17 inch notebook computer. The outside is made from Dupont Teflon coated ballistic nylon, while inline skate wheels make sure it pulls smoothly. And its got enough dividers to be functional without seeming over-designed. The suggested retail is $300, but eBags has it for as low as $161.99.

Finally, want to put your frequent flier miles to use for a good cause? Donate them to a charity. Some major airlines have established miles-for-charity programs, though the charities and the contribution minimums vary. United Airlines Mileage Plus Charity Miles lets members donate a minimum of 1,000 miles to 17 different charities, including the US Olympic Team and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.If you’re sitting on Continental OnePass miles, you can give them away to the American Red Cross, AmeriCares, CareForce and the Make-A Wish Foundation, among others. There is no minimum. And members of Delta’s SkyMiles program can donate a minimum of 5,000 miles to SkyWish, which supports selected charities, including Boys and Girls Clubs of America, CARE, UNICEF and Fisher House, which helps with travel needs of the families of military personnel who have been injured or wounded while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. But forget about April 15. No matter how many miles you donate, they’re not tax deductible.

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