'Tis the season to begin our weekly compendium of places where you can fasten, snap and clip your feet into a pair of boots an astronaut might wear, grab two sharp poles and attach yourself to a pair of slippery slats, and commence to lean forward, sliding hellbent-for-the-bottom down hillsides of snow.

Whether this sort of behavior serves to propagate the species or not remains in doubt, despite the claims of ski clubs. But it does tend to take the daredevil out of Washington on weekends, which may be why people come here and toil, between lunches, Monday through Friday.

To wit: SEVEN SPRINGS -- Beverly Pletcher said she hopes that conditions this year will be better than last, as the first full week of skiing begins Monday at this resort southeast of Pittsburgh (four hours from Washington by car).

Midweek conditions show an average snow depth of zero to 14 inches, which means there are scattered bare spots. Pletcher said Seven Springs should soon have a powder surface and suggested you call for an update. At least two chairlifts, two slopes and two trails are open. Phone: 814/352-7777. WINTERGREEN -- Two slopes and two chairlifts are open starting this Friday. Skippy Smith said they have a six- to 18-inch base with a machine-made powder surface. "If the cold weather stays with us, we will have a much larger base," she said. Slopes are open daily from 9 to 4:30, with night skiing from 7 to 11 Tuesday through Sunday. Smith said she can't describe the overall conditions. "We don't use adjectives," she said. "We just report the facts. Everyone has their own opinion." 804/361-2200 WISP -- "Mother Nature hasn't been doing much for us," said Mary Bowman from Oakland, Maryland. She said Wisp should have one or two slopes in operation this weekend, with an average base of 10 inches. But would-be skiers should call before heading for the slopes. 301/387-5503 SNOWSHOE -- Snowshoe is steadily making snow on its expert slope, but it may not be open by the weekend. However, Tim Shipley said eight of 10 trails are open with a base ranging from 12 to 48 inches. The primary surface is packed powder, the secondary is frozen granular. Temperatures are expected to stay in the snow-making range throughout the weekend. Shipley said Snowshoe is already handling up to 750 skiers on weekdays and 1,500 on weekends. 304/799-6600 SKI LIBERTY -- Four slopes and the J-Bar are in operation. The base is 12 to 24 inches with 10 inches of man-made powder. Pat Agius said most of the resort's customers come from the Washington-Baltimore area. Though Ski Liberty has been open since November 20, with only five days lost to inclement weather, the slopes, she said, are not very crowded this early in the season. "We usually don't get busy until after Christmas. People don't really start to think snow until they actually see flakes starting to fall." 717/642-8282 SKI ROUNDTOP -- June Wentz reports a six- to 12-inch base, with three to six inches of man-made snow in selected areas. Five slopes are open with four chairlifts and a J-Bar operating.