March is cruising along and, with apologies to Charles Dickens (and a tiny tweak to the tense), we say, "It is the best of times, it is the worst of times."

Those words, of course, are at the very beginning of his classic, A Tale of Two Cities.

"Best of times?" The weather in March is often fabulous: warm sun, blue skies, mild temperatures.

The snow is divine: soft corn that takes an edge perfectly, makes anyone feel like Jean-Claude Killy, and even holds out the promise of making it through a mogul field upright and happy.

One's skiing - and perhaps riding, although that is only conjecture - is at the best level of the season, having months of practice as a foundation.

Yet every turn that carries one downhill also brings one that much closer to the end of the season, and that's where "the worst of times" comes in.

A sort of desperation rises, filling the soul with knowledge that this perfect time of winter will not last, that the joy of carving linked turns down favorite runs is coming to its end, again.

[R304R, Okemo Mountain Resort] a week ago was wonderful, if wet. Oh yes, the visibility was a little restricted Saturday due to fog and rain, but no matter, the trail surfaces were great, cover was edge-to-edge, and damp conditions seemed to have diminished enthusiasm among some skiers and riders who probably chose to stay in the hot tub.

[R255R, Mount Snow] the week before found 8 inches of fresh powder that proved a little tricky for a New England skier, who learned what a "digger" is. Subsequent runs afforded the opportunity to learn how to handle powder more competently, if not perfectly, and by day's end there was even a certain confidence that all the skills learned over so many seasons would work fine in soft snow.

Visits to [R488R, Wachusett Mountain Ski Area] in between those trips up north found soft snow Wednesday, and firm snow Friday for the mountain's annual Ralph Crowley Classic, an open downhill race run on a GS course on Smith Walton Trail.

Looming ahead are the zany pond skimming events that seem to mushroom up in the waning days of winter, and that seem to appeal to many skiers and riders who, despite experience, believe that this time they will make it across those icy waters.

We wish them luck.

More information on snow conditions in ski country.