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Pick the adage: What a difference a year makes. Or good things come to those who wait.

Both apply to the cool white goodness that, in late March, still draws skiers to Holiday Valley and other slopes south of Buffalo and provides a dramatic rebound from the disappointing season of 2012.

Around the city, wintry weather has endured like a raspy cough. You can feel it in bitter winds and see it in once-mighty snowbanks that refuse to die. In southern Erie County, cattle graze in pastures flecked with snow.

Go farther south into Cattaraugus County, and you'll see winter in full glory. The ski village of Ellicottville has recorded 185 inches of snow this season, better than its average and more than three times Buffalo's snowfall so far. Snow blankets rooftops and hay bales, and strains splintered old barns.

Another bonus for Ellicottville's Holiday Valley: Half of the 185 inches fell since February began, meaning the 2012-13 ski season will schuss along for days more at least. The clunk, clunk, clunk of ski boots remains a familiar sound around the resort's busy hotels. Ski pants are still swish, swish, swishing in casual restaurants.

“The village of Ellicottville is busy. It's just like midwinter right now,'' said Holiday Valley's marketing director, Jane Eshbaugh, who said she talked Sunday with skiers from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Canada and Erie, Pa. – places that typically offer up travelers to Ellicottville.

“We haven't made snow since toward the end of February,'' she said. “[Last] week alone we got about 20 inches. The weather really changed this year right around the beginning of February, to become really like an old-fashioned winter.''

In late February 2012, skiers and snowboarders were doing what they could on slopes heavily supplemented with man-made snow, recalled Christopher Hickok. On March 18 of last year, Holiday Valley closed for the season – the only thing to do when temperatures ratchet toward a 60-degree average. The area's snowmobile trails were nothing to behold, either.

But on Sunday, Hickok and his young children, Zach and Lauren, were rushing down good powder, tiring themselves out before the drive home to Eden.

So the conditions, then, are good?

“For March 24, can't beat it,'' said Wes Loudermilk, of Cleveland, who recalled being out fishing on March 24, 2012. He traveled to Ellicottville on Sunday with Phil Manti, who said he had never ventured to Holiday Valley so late in the year.

“IT'S NOT OVER YET!!!!,'' the operators of the nearby Kissing Bridge resort assured skiers on their website Sunday. They said Kissing Bridge will be open through the week, close for Easter, and the operators will then reassess.

“Last year at this time there was no snowfall. It was 80 degrees,'' said Bill Hibbert, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Buffalo. The middle of March brought in a week of record highs, capped by a trio of balmy days in the 80s from March 20 to 22, he said. Then temperatures settled back to the seasonable 40s by month's end. A week ago Sunday, March 24, the high was 58, the low 46.

This year's snow total in Buffalo, 57.1 inches, is still well below the normal total of nearly 89 inches, Hibbert said, and that could lead to lower lake levels at least for the start of the boating season. But the farther south you go in Western New York, he said, the more snow you see.



email: mspina@buffnews.com