"The core of this season was in many cases as good as it gets," said Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association.

Berry said the final numbers will be available later this spring, and that it is too early to predict their precise shape, but that the middle of winter 2009-10 was strong in most parts of the country.

The season got a late start in every part of the alpine nation, with an encouraging cold start to November giving way to warm rains in most areas, and is now ending in similar warmth and dampness across the East, and surprising late-season snows in the West.

In between was one of the best seasons in memory.

"Skiers got three months of great skiing and riding," Berry said. "Have they had their fill? Well, it's a little more complicated than that. There's some thinking that there's kind of an optimum number of days for a ski area to be open. It's different for each ski area. You tend to do business within a few percentage points from year to year, barring catastrophe. If you're open way early and stay open way late, that doesn't mean you have double digit increase in attendance, just the same spread over a longer time."

Berry said that ultimately what's important is the number of days an area is open.

If a resort is not spending money on the front or back end, it may mean the resort generates a record amount of cash flow, he said.

"The number of days ski areas are open has declined over the last four or five years, but not because of external forces, i.e., climate change. It's declined because some major players have decided it's not in their best interest just to make snow and open as early as they can.

"Look at Summit County. There are four major players, Copper, Breckenridge, Keystone, and A Basin, and throw in Loveland for fun, and the question every year was who was going to get bragging rights to open first. Well, several of the parties have decided they don't need to win that race, because it does not contribute to their overall financial success. They operate fewer days by choice, not because external forces dictate they needed to operate fewer days.

"That's an interesting kind of evolving reality of the ski business. It's particularly true on the front end. We've always known many ski areas close in spring with optimum conditions literally to the parking lot. Things change the second you can put a shovel in the dirt, the second the daffodils bloom on south side of house, even though many still have a snowbank on north side," Berry said.