Vermont claims first rights on the title of regional maple syrup center, but New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts all vie for position in this sweetest New England industry.

Bonnie MacPherson of [R304R, Okemo Mountain Resort] in Ludlow, Vt., talked about seasonal sights cropping up everywhere in the landscape she surveys daily.

"There are paths plowed across fields so trucks can get to the sap collection points," MacPherson said. "Every pickup truck you see has a sap container in it for collecting the sap. It's so neat."

She noted the sight of steam billowing from local sugarhouses, and the mix of warm days and cool nights that helps fill sap buckets hanging from maple trees and creates the snow surface conditions that skiers and riders savor through the final days of winter.

"Okemo is planning to offer skiing and snowboarding through mid-April," MacPherson said, "so there's plenty of time to enjoy the spring snow, sunny skies and numerous on-snow events like Splash for Cash and Okemo's annual Slush Cup pond-skimming competition."

Okemo, like many resorts, is offering best prices on next year's season pass.

The resort offers early pricing on passes through April 30, on seven-day passes, five-day passes, midweek passes, and a Sunday One-Day Pass. Most passes include skiing and riding benefits with Okemo's sister resorts, Mount Sunapee, N.H,. and Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Colo. - and Okemo's partnership continues with Stratton Mountain, Vt.

More information on season passes. Or call 802-228-1600.