The start of West Virginia's ski season depends on how cold the weather has been -- for snowmaking -- or how soon winter storms begin yielding their customary heavy snowfalls. This year, Snowshoe and Timberline hope to open on Thanksgiving Day, Canaan Valley on Nov. 27 and Silver Creek on Dec. 11. Before you head out, check with the individual resorts.

Lodging rates vary widely, but for the best prices consider a midweek ski trip anytime during the season or on weekends before Christmas and in March. Lift-ticket prices also drop during midweek, before Christmas and in March. Be sure to ask for packages that may include lodging, lift tickets and lessons at reduced prices.

If you are considering weekend trips, now is not too soon to call for reservations. Some weekends are already booked full at one or two of the resorts.

GETTING THERE: To get to Snowshoe and Silver Creek, head west on I-66 to Strasburg, Va., continuing west on Rte. 55 into West Virginia to Harman and west again on U.S. 33 to Elkins. At Elkins, turn south on U.S. 219 for 48 miles to the resorts.

To get to Canaan Valley and Timberline, head west on I-66 to Strasburg, continuing west on Rte. 55 into West Virginia to Harman. At Harman, turn north on Rte. 32 to the resorts.

COSTS: Snowshoe: Daily adult lift ticket is $29 weekends, $24 weekdays. Snowshoe has a wide range of lodging choices and combination packages. On Friday, Saturday and holidays, a hotel room for two begins at about $75 a night, a one-bedroom efficiency condo at $100 and a four-bedroom condo at $415. The rate at Whistlepunk begins at about $160 a night for two. Rates are lower midweek. During Snowshoe's "Wild & Wonderful" season, in effect from Thanksgiving through Dec. 19, lodging rates are about 35 percent cheaper. During the "Almost Heaven" season, from March 6 to closing, the rates again are discounted about 35 percent. For more information: Snowshoe, P.O. Box 10, Snowshoe, W.Va. 26209, 1-304-572-5252.

Silver Creek: Daily adult lift ticket is $26 weekends, $13 weekdays. The weekday rate is in effect daily through Dec. 24 and from March 1 to 20. Skiing is free on Christmas Day. During the regular season, a room for two is $80 a night on Friday and Saturday and $40 a night the rest of the week. The weekday rate is in effect daily through Dec. 24 and from March 1 to 20. One- to four-bedroom condo apartments are available at higher rates. For more information: Silver Creek Ski Resort, P.O. Box 150, Slatyfork, W.Va. 26291, 1-800-624-2119 or 1-304-572-4000.

Canaan Valley Resort: Daily adult lift ticket is $23 weekends, $15 weekdays. A two-day weekend ticket is $42. During the regular season, a room for two at the lodge is $59 a night on Friday and Saturday and $56 a night the rest of the week. Through Dec. 24 and after March 5, the rate is $39 weekends and $33 weekdays. For information: Canaan Valley Resort, Route 1, Box 330, Davis, W.Va. 26260, 1-800-CALL-WVA or 1-304-866-4121.

Timberline: Daily adult lift ticket is $25 weekends, $16 weekdays. Except for Christmas-New Year's holidays, a two-bedroom, one-bath condo for six people is $135 a night on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and $90 a night the rest of the week. The rate for a two-bedroom, two-bath condo is $145 a night on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and $100 a night the rest of the week. From Dec. 21 to Jan. 2, the one-bath condo is $150 a night and the two-bath is $160, both with a minimum three-day stay. Timberline Four Seasons Resort, Box 625, Canaan Valley, W.Va. 26260, 1-800-843-1751 or 1-304-866-4801.

(There is additional lodging for Canaan Valley's resorts at vacation home developments and motels in Canaan Valley and in Davis, about 10 miles north. Just outside Davis is Blackwater Falls State Park, which has a woodsy-looking 55-room lodge. For information about these facilities call West Virginia's Division of Tourism, 1-800-CALL-WVA.)

WinterPlace: WinterPlace expects to open Thanksgiving weekend. Daily adult lift ticket is $27 weekends, $20 weekdays. Condo apartments are available at the resort. For information: WinterPlace, Box 1, Flat Top, W.Va. 25841, 1-304-787-3221.

Elk River: The cross-country center hopes to open about Dec. 19. The daily trail rate is $5. Lodging at the center is in a one-time farmhouse. The daily rates with a full breakfast are $25 single and $40 double. The center can direct skiers to other nearby accommodations, including lodging at Snowshoe, about nine miles away. For more information: Elk River Touring Center, Slatyfork, W.Va. 26291, 1-304-572-3771.

White Grass: The cross-country center expects to open Thanksgiving Day. Trail rates are $5 weekends and $3 weekdays. The center mails out a lodging information sheet with a list of accommodations with prices within 25 miles. For information: White Grass Ski Touring Center, Route 1, Box 299, Davis, W.Va. 26260, 1-304-866-4114.