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Rockies offer spring-like skiing without iciness

It was warm in the Colorado Rockies last week. So warm that some of the skiers in the lift lines at Copper Mountain didn't bother wearing shirts, while a few substituted shorts for pants.

With spring weather like that you might expect powder soon to resemble Cream of Wheat.

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Well, not at 8,000 to 10,000 feet in Colorado - at least not last week. I tell you, the Texans know what they're doing when they move en masse to the Rockies in February. Every skier from Houston and Dallas must be here. Otherwise, how do you explain all those Southern accents gliding over the slopes of Summit County?

When the sun shines this hard in the hills of New England, both the snow and the skiers start to disappear fast. But out on the Front Range, where they could have used new snow last week, the sun and the altitude and maybe even the Southern accents seemed to work magic. After several late April-like days, the skiing was still great.

Oh, once in a while someone catching the rays on the chairlift would lazily complain that a certain slope or ski area was ''icy'' from all the melting and nightly refreezing. Well, let me tell you: those Texans and Coloradans don't know what icy is. You want icy? Try a Vermont expert trail after one of this winter's alternating monsoons and deep freezes. I side-slipped down one frozen peak a couple of weeks ago wondering if crampons might not help my technique.

But at Keystone, Colo. last week, where I had heard it was icy, the worst you could say was that once in a while the snow was noisy. They make snow in the Rockies now, but more as an insurance policy than a weather protector, as it is in the East.

Would that the Northeast, where some of the best machine-made snow in the world is blown, could have just a little of that marvelous Colorado ''ice.''

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