What it finally came down to, said Dave Cohen of Silver Spring, was either kicking in the television set to stop the kids from watching it or bribing them to join them and his wife on an outdoor outing in Washington.

He bribed them.

It cost him $5 worth of candy and junk food that the boys collected in shops along the way, but Cohen said it was worth it. He laughed and joked with his family as they sledded down the steep slopes on the Monument grounds yesterday afternoon.

The Cohens were just a few of the Washington area residents who climbed out of their winter hideaways long enough to enjoy the beauty of the winter's first snowfall. As temperatures climbed to the mid-30s and road crews scraped the last patches of ice off the highways, thousands embarked on a sunny Sunday of winter sports.

"We're from Boston, but the kids don't know what a real snowstorm is like," Cohen said. "From here (monument grounds) it's an incredible view. You can see the White House, the Capitol and the Monument."

"The kids didn't want to go to the museums, so we had to find something else," Cohen said, giving a little push to his wife and son as they glided down the snow slope. "This is the least expensive entertainment in town."

Nearby, Arlington resident Barbara Baird, accompanied by her visiting sister Joan and friend Jackie Hillman, trudged across the snow looking for an ice skating rink.

"I know it's here somewhere," Baird said, her white boot skates tied together by the laces and hanging over one shoulder. The skate blades reflected the sunshine and the bright, almost blue-white snow.

"People have been asking us questions all along as we walk," she said. "They say, 'where's the ice?' But we haven't found it."

Most of the outdoor ponds were not ready for ice skating yesterday.

At the sculpture garden skating rink at 9th Street and Constitution Avenue NW where the U.S. Park Service makes its own ice, a spokesman said it was business as usual.

Throughout the mall area, children threw snowballs, loving couples took walks and some skiers glided along on new ski boots or skis.

"It's the first snow of the year so why not?" said District of Columbia resident Barry Steeves, accompanied by a friend and novice skier who would not give her name. Embarassed, she tripped and fell, and while he skied ahead, she ski-walked, one ski awkwardly kicked ahead of the other.

Fifteen miles south of the monument, Nina McKenna perched Zeus-like at the top of a hill in Fairfax County's Pohick Regional Park, surveying the carnival of colors that whizzewd by her feet.

"I guess its been pretty safe this year," said McKenna, 14, who had ventured down the long hill twice. "Of course, there was one kid who was taken off in an ambulance. Somebody ran right into him. But the worst part is walking back up the hill."

Singly and in bunches, well-padded sledders braved the quarter-mile park trail that wound steeply down to Pohick Bay. A fortunate few, stomachs pressed to sleds and faces distorted by fear and delight, safely rounded the curve. Other tumbled into a helpless mass of giggling bodies, pelted by snowballs thrown by adolescent marauders.

Michael Reamy, 6, of Fort Belvoir, was one of several hundred people who enjoyed the festivities when the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority packed down its sledding course at Pohick Park. Aided by an estimated eight inches of snow, officials hope to keep the course going through Monday.

"This is great!" hollered Michael, as his mother pulled him up the hill after the first sled ride of his life. "I'm going to do this 15 more times!"

He pulled his green "Incredible Hulk" hat closer against the chill. Three feet away, a serpentine twist of five sleds, carrying a crowd of exuberant teen-agers, spunn into a snow drift.

But not everyone took to the slopes.

Rockville tire dealer Martin Rosendorf enjoyed the season's first snowstorm so much that he went to work yesterday -- not to sell tires, but to total up his profits on the office adding machine.

"Man, you wouldn'ta beleive it," the owner of Abby Tire Co. declared. "People waited as long as three hours to get snow tires here. Shoot, I sold about 150 of 'em in one day."

At Columbia County Club in Chevy Chase, dozens of youngsters threw snowballs at each other and sledded down the ninth hole fairway on the club's golf course.

Golfers retreated indoors to Columbia's net room, to practice tee shots, while tennis aficianados swatted balls on a nearby heated racketball court.

"A little snow isn't going to stop people from having fun around here," said Kevin Hogan, a clerk at Columbia's golf club. "Some people came in and bought new golf gear. They said they were going south to get away from the weather."

Others weren't so lucky. At Sheila's Foxy I massage spa in Lanham a few bored attendants lounged around the lobby hoping for customers who never came.

"Business is down drastically, sweetheart," sighed one lady who declined to divulge her name. "The snow ain't doing us no good."

The storm was bad nes for Nimrod Harris, too. The Clinton limousine dealer's four custom-made Cadillacs weren't being leased at all.

"The season has more to do with it than the snow," said Harris. "Winter's always a little slow for me. After Christmas, people don't have as much money to kick around.

"Plus," he said, "Congress is out of session. They like to use the cars quite a bit."

Tire dealer Rosendorf, meanwhile, enjoyed a few hours of tranquil solitude, the first he's had in days.

"I wish the storm had come a few days later after my inventory," he said. "My paperwork's all messed up."

Washington area motorists should expect mostly wet streets this morning but little of the snow or ice on roads from the weekend's snow storm. Weather Service forecasters, however, warn that there may be slippery spots in some places.

Schools in the Washington area are expected to be open as usual.

Forecasters said a combination of warmer temperatures and early morning rain today will dissipate much of the snow that has accumulated in the city and suburbs. High today are expected in the law 40s with lows dropping to the 20s.

An approaching cold front should make tempertures drop to the teens later tonight.