The first big snowfall of the season delivered a bounty of white gold to ski areas eager for a plentiful season.
The early Christmas present dropped up to 2 feet of snow Monday and Tuesday in northern Vermont, and more than a foot and a half across sections of New Hampshire's White Mountains and western Maine, enabling many areas to boost trail counts dramatically for this weekend. A few areas are opening ahead of schedule, too.
"We're off to the strongest start in many years with the trail count rising daily," said Ski Vermont president Parker Riehle.
Nearly 30 percent of Vermont's trails were open Tuesday as compared with 2.2 percent on that date in 2006, and 14 percent in 2005, reported Ski Vermont.
The snow enabled Sugarloaf to double its open terrain overnight while Sunday River plans on opening 70 trails this weekend.
"Several areas have called to say that they may open earlier than planned if these winter conditions continue," said Ski Maine executive director Greg Sweetser.
Fresh tracksCross-country areas benefited nicely, too. Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vt., officially opened Tuesday under sunny skies and temps near 20 degrees after about 15 inches of new snow fell.
"It looks more like Jan. 4 out there," said director of skiing Charlie Yerrick. The plan was to open about 10 kilometers a day.
"This is certainly a pleasant change from last season," he said.
Across northern New England, touring centers are getting going. Among those open are Vermont's Blueberry Lake, Mountain Top, Bolton Valley, Craftsbury Outdoor Center, and Wild Wings.
In New Hampshire, the Balsams, Bretton Woods, Great Glen Trails, and Jackson Ski Touring are operating. Great Glen expects more than 100 racers - high school to master - for the Atomic Sprints Saturday.
The Balsams has been open for skiing since Thanksgiving weekend and about 2 feet of snow fell Monday and Tuesday, according to Nordic director Jonathon Dodge.
"I can't imagine us having less than 80 kilometers open this weekend," he said.
Deneriaz to retireOlympic downhill champion Antoine Deneriaz of France announced his retirement, a week after withdrawing from an event in Beaver Creek, Colo.
"I've lost confidence and I prefer to quit of my own doing rather than finish in the hospital," said the 31-year-old Deneriaz.
He has struggled since a crash in March 2006, a month after winning the downhill at the Turin Olympics.
Bait and snitchThe British Columbia mountain that will host the Alpine skiing events for the 2010 Winter Olympics is launching an innovative program to deter ski and snowboard theft. The security team at Whistler Blackcomb, some 70 miles north of Vancouver, has begun "baiting" would-be thieves by stocking the racks outside its lodges with specially marked skis and snowboards that the resort's security team then monitors.
Although this sneaky anti-crime concept might sound a little too "Big Brother"-ish for some, Tabetha Boot, communications supervisor for Whistler Blackcomb, said property baiting has become a trendy law enforcement technique in western Canada. Automobiles and bicycles that can be electronically tracked (and in the case of cars, remotely disabled) are placed in high-crime areas, leading police to the criminals when the vehicles are stolen.
"It's a reasonably common program, particularly in Vancouver," said Boot. "There's lots of signage, and that alone is an effective deterrent."
The bait scheme was instituted at the start of this season, and it is believed to be the first of its kind at a mountain resort. Boot said no thieves have been nabbed yet, but she thinks the word-of-mouth buzz generated by the program will be enough to keep most crooks from liberating an expensive pair of skis or a snowboard.
Wildcat going againWildcat plans to reopen tomorrow after a power outage Monday and planned maintenance forced the Pinkham Notch, N.H., ski area to close.
The double whammy forced skiers and riders to head elsewhere during a time when more than 16 inches of snow fell near the base of Mount Washington.
According to Wildcat general manager Tom Caughey, the Cat lost power at 4 a.m. Monday during the storm. Though the area does have backup electricity, it is on a limited scale.
With Pinkham Notch being a scenic area within the White Mountain National Forest, Caughey said the power lines through the forest present a challenge.
"Years ago they built the power lines along the shortest routes," he said. "Large trees fall on the lines, and some of that equipment is old and tired."
He said Public Service of New Hampshire crews were working on the problem.
Jam the railsFifteen grand is up for grabs during this weekend's Mountain Dew Rails to Riches Rail Jam at Killington.
"Last year's event drew some of the best skiers and riders in the East, proving to be exciting for both the competitors and spectators," said Killington's events manager, Josh Arneson. "Look for an integration of new rail features from our parks crew to create an even better event this year."
At Okemo, the popular Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge gets underway for the season on Lower Chief Saturday. The recreational race is loaded with prizes and giveaways as it travels among New England ski areas. Sunday is the ROME Rail Jam by the clock tower.
Loon Mountain's Open Season Jib Series starts Saturday. The first of four seasonlong events is open to all ages.
This weekend, Sugarloaf is holding its annual demo days.
Globe correspondent T.D. Thornton and the Associated Press contributed to this report.