Skiing is addictive. The more you ski the more you become willing to travel absurd distances just to slide down a higher mountain or a tougher slope. But before jetting off to the Rockies or the Green Mountains, consider what's offered locally, that is, anything within a five-hour drive - don't be discouraged - of the capital.

For the skiing addict the closet "fix" is Ski Liberty, an excellent choice for night skiing and only an hour and a half away in south-central Pennsylvania. Within a five-hour radius of Washington are 45 ski areas in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

Fourteen of those areas are described below. The skiing is not that of the West or New England, but it's good; The largest area easily accessible to Washingtonians is Snowshoe, which has a vertical rise of 1,500 feet. By comparison, the best areas in Vermont have vertical rises of about 2,000 feet.

Much of the following descriptions is extracted from "The White Book of U.S. Ski Areas," a no-nonsense, data-based directory to 800 ski areas. The "White Book" is a valuable reference for any skier, and most good shops carry it. The only part of the following descriptions that might be confusing is that of the methods of instruction used by the ski schools. "GLM" stands for "graduated length method," which starts the beginner parallel skiing on short skis on the first day. "ATM" stands for "American teaching method," which starts the beginner on conventional skis and teaches fundamentals first.

Whether an area offers night skiing can be determined by the description of lift tickets. Whether an area attracts a predominantly family crowd or a singles crowd is subjective but may be indicated by the amenities for children and those for nightlife. Almost all areas offer children's rates on lift tickets.