At Boston's Ski Ball at the Ritz-Carlton last Friday night, a marvelous thing happened: Outside the window, snow swirled out of a black sky into streetlights below.
As caravans of snowbirds wend their way down Interstate-95 to the Sunbelt, snow worshipers in the Northeast rejoiced. There was even enough white stuff in some spots to get out the cross-country skis for a little trekking in the woods.
In the north country, the first runs are opening, largely on machine-made snow, as skiers and boarders have been responding -- for mid-November -- with the phrase coined by Alan Greenspan, "irrational exuberance."
But then, sliding on snow is essentially irrational, which is why aficionados are so passionate about the sport. According to ski area managers, the wintry weather had parking lots filling early last Saturday. To snowsport lovers, November is a little like March to a baseball fan: The talk this time of year is about the months ahead.
Weather prognosticators have a way of claiming accuracy in their long-range forecasts of seasons past. There was talk of a cold winter last season, yet nowhere was there a scenario predicting January would be so cold that skiers stayed away in droves. Nor can a long-range forecast predict storms will arrive just late enough in the week to keep people off the highways.
In fact, the ski industry in New England is coming off two pretty bad seasons and could use one of those seasons with a mean temperature of 25 degrees, little wind, and the storms kicking in every week, Monday to Wednesday.
Instead of going to long-range weather prognosticators, or even The Old Farmer's Almanac, there is a truer test, said Susan DuPlessis, spokeswoman for Sunday River. Though living in Maine, DuPlessis is a Vermonter in her heart and, like my Vermont grandmother, trusts the folk wisdom found all around us in nature. But she also trusts another force.
"This year," said DuPlessis, "the squirrels have been chewing through pumpkins to get at the seeds. This is a sign of a very wintry winter."
Although a power indicator, it is not the key to a perfect understanding.
"It's the Red Sox," she said.
Asked to explain, she makes it all perfectly clear. It took such powerful karma for the Sox to win the World Series, it is a sign to DuPlessis that a wonderful winter lies ahead. Her belief was underscored this week when Les Otten -- who built Sunday River and is now part owner of the Red Sox -- was cavorting around the Pine Tree State showing off the World Series trophy.
But what about skiers from New York? she was asked.
"Makes no difference. The Red Sox karma is irradicable. This is going to be a great winter for us." . . .
The 23d Boston Globe Snowsports Expo runs today through Sunday at the Bayside Expo Center. Anchored by the Ski Market and its monster sale of equipment and outdoor clothes, the show has seen some 45,000 fans turn out in past years. According to founder Bernie Weichsel, who promotes similar shows in other cities, Boston is the "highest-energy skiing and boarding market in the country."
Most show-goers are there as much for the bargains as the ambiance. And with ski country in a price-cutting mood these days, there are dozens of deals. A sampling:
New Hampshire's Loon, Waterville Valley, and Cranmore are offering a Threedom Season Pass -- valid at all three mountains -- to the daily high scorers of a ski/ride video game set up at the Expo.
Okemo Mountain, Sunapee, and Crested Butte (Colorado) -- all under the management of the Mueller family -- will distribute discount coupons for lift tickets and learn-to-ride packages.
Pats Peak in southern New Hampshire will have a drawing for lift tickets every half-hour each day of the Expo.
Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont plans to unveil its $250 million expansion plans for the season, which include two new lifts and a new snowmaking system that will boost the area's capacity by 40 percent.
Ski Salt Lake and Delta Airlines will give away four air-inclusive trips to Utah ski areas in drawings each day, plus free tote bags to the first 500 visitors to the display.
MTL Vacations in Beverly will offer 10 percent off all packages. Also, MTL will give away a trip to Mont Tremblant in Quebec with three nights accommodations, airfare, car rental, and lift tickets.
Three Park City, Utah, areas -- The Canyons, Park City, and Deer Valley -- will offer "Quick Start" vacation promotions in which skiers (not boarders at Deer Valley) can convert their same-day airline boarding pass. With the early-morning flight out of Boston, skiers and riders can be on the slopes by midday.
All four days, a freestyle aerial exhibition team, featuring United States and Canadian Olympic team members, will perform on a trampoline all four days.
Honda Element Street and Skate contest and open skating hours will be offered on the Waterville Valley Street Course, presented in association with WBCN.
Teton Gravity Research Free Ride Theater will present excerpts from its newest film, "Soul Purpose" -- a mix of high-energy videos on a state-of-the art entertainment center.
Show hours are 4-8 p.m. today and tomorrow, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.
Admission is $10, $7 with a coupon in the Globe or online at www.onthesnow.com. For more information, call 1-802-362-1667.