PARK CITY, UTAH — If you’ve experienced the skiing and riding conditions in New England lately, you can thank an unlikely weather partner, El Nino. Consistent temperatures, which have preserved dry soft snow on ski trails, and plentiful natural snow have set the mountains up with some of the best midseason conditions in recent memory.

Meteorologist Herb Stevens, the Skiing Weatherman, says this year is a return to winters past when snowfall was a given and winter meant winter. “We’re seeing a shift into the cold phase of El Nino that seems to enhance precipitation. I’m bullish about the prospects for the next 60 days in New England,” he said.

Recent El Ninos have been in a warm phase that can bring unseasonable temperatures and lackluster snowfall amounts to New England. This year, the signs are pointing a different direction. “This is not your mother’s El Nino. It’s your grandmother’s; and your grandmother’s El Nino was good for skiers,” Stevens said.

If Stevens’ predictions hold true, New England could be in store for a banner year on the slopes. Stevens compares the conditions we’re seeing now to two others in the past: 1957-58 and 1969-70. A review of the records at Sugarloaf/USA in Carrabassett Valley, Maine, show both seasons to be off the charts. Snowfall totaled 325 inches in ’57-’58 and 347 inches in ’69-70. Comparatively, 2000-01, which most agree was a good snow year, brought 259 inches to the slopes.

February is already lending credit to Stevens’ theories. For example, Sugarloaf and Sunday River in Maine received nearly two feet of snow this week. In New Hampshire, nearly a foot of new snow has graced the slopes of Attitash Bear Peak. They are fully open with great snow on natural snow favorites like Kachina, Tim’s Trauma, and Tightrope. Killington Resort in Vermont has already recorded more than 17 feet of snow this season, surpassing last year’s snowfall total.

“Typically the resort sees an average of 7 feet of new snow in March and April, sometimes even May. If this holds true this season, we could post a record-breaking snow year,” Killington’s Kim Jackson said. Mount Snow in Southern Vermont is 100 percent open including all natural snow trails, glades and off-piste areas.

Temperatures since November have been consistently winter-like with few freeze-thaw events, something that flusters skiers and resort operators alike. Wide swings in temperatures can allow moisture to build up in the snow and create a frozen granular surface when it re-freezes. “Since we haven’t had those temperature swings this season, we’re maintaining soft, powdery conditions on the trails,” said Jim Costello, vice president of sales and marketing for Sugarloaf and Sunday River. “Maine and many New England resorts like Attitash and Killington, are able to offer a product that takes a back seat to no season. Conditions are outstanding.”

With more than half of the winter season still to come, deep snow on the trails, and a terrific weather outlook, there’s no better time to head to the slopes of New England. This is also the time of year many resorts offer exceptional values. At Killington, four-day long weekend packages start at just $213 per person and include four nights lodging and lift tickets. Call 1-800-621-MTNS or book online at www.killington.com

Midweek skiers and riders can ski free all season long at Mount Snow in Vermont. Stay on-mountain for as little as $59 Sunday through Thursday nights, excluding holidays, and ski the next day free. Call 800-451-4211 or book online at www.mountsnow.com.

At Sugarloaf/USA in Maine, 2-7 day packages start as low $49 per person per night and include on-mountain accommodations, daily lift ticket, health club access, and daily adult Perfect Turn Clinics. Log on to www.sugarloaf.com for more information or call 1-800-THE-LOAF.

At Sunday River in Maine, there’s still time to enjoy the Deal of the Century. For $99 per person, enjoy two days skkiing, one night’s lodging at the Snow Cap Inn and two meals. The Deal of the Century is available for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday arrivals from now through April 17, excluding holiday periods. Call 1-800-543-2SKI for details or log on to www.sundayriver.com.

Midweek Madness at Attitash Bear Peak in New Hampshire is a great escape to the mountains. Stay slopeside in the Grand Summit Hotel for as little as $89 per person per night, including lift tickets. Call 1-888-554-1900 for more information or book online at www.attitash.com.

About American Skiing Company

Headquartered in Park City, Utah, American Skiing Company (OTC: AESKE) is one of the largest operators of alpine ski, snowboard and golf resorts in the United States. Its resorts include Killington and Mount Snow in Vermont; Sunday River and Sugarloaf/USA in Maine; Attitash Bear Peak in New Hampshire; Steamboat in Colorado; and The Canyons in Utah. More information is available on the Company’s Web site, www.peaks.com.