I bummed a ride up Mt. Washington some years ago in the Mount Washington Observatory snowcat. They charged me $25, I think, and didn't reallly worry what happened to me once I got to the summit.

It was February, and I wanted to ski down the road without the pain of climbing up a snow-covered trail.

Lazy I know, but there you have it. Ski down I did, starting in late afternoon as the sun was sinking low in the West. The bulk of the mountain blocked the northwest wind, for the most part, so the real danger - if such there was - arose from getting lost or falling, neither of which happened. Ah to be young, invincible, and foolish, again.

Die-hards may bridle at the thought of riding a snowcat, or SnowCoach, up the Mt. Washington Auto Road to get a taste of adventure, but how is that different from riding a chairlift or gondola up a mountain to ski or ride down?

Anyway, recent heavy snows have covered the Mt. Washington Auto Road with impressive snow depths, making possible the start of this winter's SnowCoach tours.

"Winter brings a whole new set of sights and sounds to the Mount Washington Auto Road: the crisp mountain air, the crystal blue skies, the soft crunch of new snow, and the SnowCoach allows guests to experience winter on the mountain. It is a rare opportunity to view winter in a place very few travel," said Ryan Triffit of the Mt. Washington Auto Road.

Don't even think about brining skis to ski down, or even leaving the custody of the SnowCoach operation. What I described at the beginning of this item happened in a bygone, less-litigious era.

SnowCoach tours are approximately an hour and 15 minutes long and depart daily from through March from Great Glen Trails base lodge at the base of the Mt. Washington Auto Road in Pinkham Notch, N.H.

Advance reservations are not available due to unpredictable weather and snow conditions, so space is first come, first served. Operating hours are approximately 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., depending on weather and snow conditions.

SnowCoach tours cost $45 for adults and $30 for children ages 5-12.

More information. Or call 603-466-3988.