You wanna step out, but you don't know where to step. The ubiquitous movie is boring, elbow-bending is fattening, and bowling is passe.

Instead of stepping out, why not glide out? Try skiing.

Man-made snow is not the only improvement on Mother Nature's ski runs. Arelights and powerful searchlight beams have brought day to unskiable night conditions.

Night skiing is to day skiing what black-and-white is to Technicolor. At night the contrasts are greater. The lights overexpose bright colors and wash them out, and turn dark colors various shades of black. Small moguls throw shadows like large mountains; the glades separating trails become endless black chasms; the skiers seem to float in their own dream worlds and their aloneness makes the slopes seem empty.

But the unreality is its own excitement, and while your mind is trying to adjust to the strangeness, your body will be free to ski as well as you have ever skied.

You don't even have to limit night skiing to the weekends -- you can pack up your gear and your sweetie at the 5 o'clock whistle and be at the ski area in time for a quick hamburger before tackling the slopes.

You can even learn to ski at night, so that if you start Monday by Saturday you'll be an old hand.

There are two areas open for night skiing close enough to Washington to make an evening of it, Braddock Heights and Ski Liberty.

BRADDOCK HEIGHTS (301/371-7131), in a suburb of Frederick, is exactly 36 miles from the Beltway at I-270. You can probably reach it in an hour from downtown Washington.

While Braddock Heights' 250-foot vertical drop may not inspire thoughts of the Rockies, it's just fine for an evening's entertainment. Three of the area's four runs are lit for night skiing.

Braddock Heights is open 6 to 10 every night except Sunday and Monday. Lift tickets are $5 Tuesday through Thursday nights,

Friday and Saturday. Rental of skis, boots and poles is $7 for the evening, and a ski class is $5. There are usually four instructors available at night, but more can be called up within 15 minutes if there's a large crowd.

The area has a cafeteria and a restaurant that's open every night until midnight, and a bar that's open every night for another hour after that.

To get to Braddock Heights, take I-270 to Frederick, then I-70 west to Hagerstown. Get off at the second exit -- Exit 49, alternate U.S. 40 -- and go left exactly one mile to the top of the hill. There you'll see a gas station on your right and two stone pillars on your left. Make a left between the pillars. Go three blocks, to just before the stop sign, and make a sharp left and follow the road to the ski area.

SKI LIBERTY (717/642-8282) is in Fairfield, Pennsylvania, about 65 miles from Washington. The roads are good and you can make the trip in about an hour and a half.

Ski Liberty has eight slopes and trails and a vertical drop of 600 feet, and the whole mountain is lit for night skiing. The area is open seven nights a week from 6 to 10 (Fridays to 11). Lift tickets are $6.50, rentals are $7 and ski school lessons are $6.

Liberty also has GLM learn-to-ski packages. You must take consecutive nights, and they must be weeknights, not weekends, but you can start any day you find convenient.

The area restaurant serves dinner until 9 (the cafeteria is open later) and the tavern is open until 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays; live entertainment from 10 on.

To get to Ski Liberty, take I-270 to Frederick, Route 15 north to Emmitsburg, go left on Route 97 west to Route 116 north and follow signs.

If you get too tired to drive home, both areas have motels.

Both areas also have daytime skiing, and are close enough to go th when you play hooky some lazy afternoon. But if you want to have your job and your skiing too, try night skiing.

Other areas within reasonable distance of Washington also have night skiing facilities