The winter's hold on the slopes is starting to loosen, from [R436R, Sugarloaf] in Maine to [R407R, Snowshoe] in West Virginia. The deck at [R100R, Cannon Mountain] in Franconia Notch, N.H., beckons.

One attractive aspect of spring is that as March waxes, prices wane.

Days have grown noticeably longer, with sunrise earlier and sunset later.

The sun has a real bite now, making it a pleasure to sit outside at the base lodge or an on-mountain eatery, enjoying food and drink with friends, watching other skiers and riders make their way down the mountain.

Winter continues, with lots of snowpack, and freezing nights.

Snowmaking is over for the winter, but grooming will continue until the lifts stop spinning.

Each night the groomers smooth out trail surfaces bumped up by a day's worth of skiing and riding.

Veteran skiers and snowboarders know to watch out for variable surface conditions, and to beware of thinning cover that can expose rocks, although this year that likely won't happen until later in March.

They also know to wear sunblock to protect against stronger sunlight that beats down from above, and reflects up from below.

Goggles or sunglasses are important pieces of equipment.

Clothing shifts from the ultra-warm garments of mid-winter to lighter garb of spring.

Skiers and riders dress in layers still, but more lightly, so various items of apparel can be taken off and stowed away as the days warm from 20s to 40s.

They know to ski early, enjoy the mid-day sun and warmth, and go home happy.

It also is a time for pond skimming and outdoor barbecues, beach parties, and reggae fests.

There is a certain magic to spring skiing. Skiers and riders may arrive a bit later at the slopes, as surfaces tend to be firm early and soften through the morning.

It's the best of times. Savor each run. More information: Snowshoe 877-441-4386; Sugarloaf 866-266-7081; Cannon 603-823-8800.