"In a nutshell, we've had the best opening in recent memory, not only in terms of earliness but in terms of available conditions for skiers, boarders and snow tubers," said Joe Stevens, communications director for the West Virginia Ski Areas Association.

Stevens said some parts of the Allegheny Mountains had seven feet of snow going into the holidays.

"I can't remember the last time we went into the holiday season with as much terrain open. It's pretty incredible," he said.

"Apart from the snow, what's biggest for us is the sustained cold temperatures where snowmakers have not had to stop and start and stop and start. They've been able to start and keep pumping. We traditionally get shots of cold here and there, but this year it's been sustained.

"Natural snow is fine, but the manmade stuff stays around and will sustain skiing and riding through the freeze/thaws," Stevens said.

Another reason why Stevens, other West Virginia resort figures, and East Coast operators in general may be smiling is the apparent trend of skiers and riders to drive, not fly, to resorts.

"With gas prices dropping like they have, people in the major metropolitan areas that West Virginia draws from are making the decision to drive rather than fly. Nothing against the airlines, but it's not the easiest thing in the world to take skis or snowboards from here to the West.

"That was a big worry we had as a group going into this season, because we were looking at $4 a gallon gas prices, not $1.66 which is the average now. We're drive-to destinations, so that's good news for us," Stevens said.