Dial-a-snow-report: for 50 cents you can get a ski conditions rundown

Good snow conditions often seem to be in the eye of the beholder. This season, the common gossip has been "the awful snow drought" in the Western United States and the frigid winter in the East, where it is assumed that "they at least have snow for the skiers this year."

Well, 16 inches of powder fell in a Rocky Mountain storm the other day, and all 38 lifts in the Aspen area were reportedly running. Meanwhile, when was the last time New England got a 16-inch snowstorm? At this writing, anyway, it was beyond memory. Were it not for snowmaking guns, Eastern ski areas this year would again be in very sad shape, be there snow in city parks or not.

All of which brings us to Ma Bell's entry into the snow-reporting business. This season the Bell System is offering telephone ski reports, updated four times daily, for 10 regions of the US. The only catch is that every call for a 55-second recording (of what the areas themselves say are their snow conditions) will cost you 50 cents plus tax.

To many experienced skiers, that money might be better spent by calling the ski areas in consideration directly. Who knows? You might even get a real, live person instead of the ubiquitous recording.

But for those who appreciate 50-cent recorded snow reports, here are the numbers:

Maine, New Hampshire, eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island -- (900) 976-3700.

Vermont, central and northern New York -- (900) 976-3710.

Connecticut, western Massachusetts, southern New York, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania -- (900) 976-3720.

Maryland, western New York, western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina -- (900) 976-3730.

Ohio, Indiana, Michigan -- (900) 976-3740.

Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota -- (900) 976- 3750.

North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana -- (900) 976-3760.

Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico -- (900) 976-3770.

Washington, Oregon -- (900) 976-3780.

California, Nevada -- (900) 976-3790.

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