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Mountain Time

Boarder zone: Hunter Mountain and Windham are so close you can frolic on the slopes all day and be home in time for (a non-frozen) dinner.

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If skiing to the grocery store on New Year's weekend whetted your appetite for winter sports, it's not too late to check out the inexpensive snowboarding trips available from local sports stores. Both Hunter and Windham mountains mold new features into the snow each time it's groomed, so boarders have tubes, walls, hips, and spines to ride in and over. Qualified instructors will show you how, and on each trip, beginners can take free group lessons if they don't mind being restricted to the bunny runs. Boarders return the same evening, with a new extreme-sport attitude that'll keep the sidewalk-bound in their place.

Trips to Hunter Mountain, the nearest winter-sports mecca, fill up quickly, so reserve at least a week in advance. Paragon's bus -- it shows movies onboard -- leaves from the store at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays. A $55 ticket covers transportation, breakfast, and lift pass. Princeton Ski Shops offers the same package for $54.95; buses leave the store at 6 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday (reservations need to be made in person). Snowboard rental is an extra $20 on both trips. Scandinavian Ski & Sport allows you to put together the most flexible combinations of lift passes and lessons at different skill levels, but requires cash in advance. Trips leave the store at 7 a.m., and return twelve hours later. Off-peak prices on Wednesdays range from $53 for transportation and lift ticket to $70 for a beginner's lift pass, snowboard rental, and a lesson. Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays are $5 more.

Windham Mountain isn't as packed as Hunter, and has weekly children's classes that draw a family crowd. Gentle rides on the lower slopes are geared to first-timers; rippers can ride the black-diamond runs at the top. Paragon will drive you out on Sundays; the $60 fee covers the same package as its Hunter trip. If you can get to the Grand Hyatt on 42nd Street by 5:50 a.m., reserve two days in advance with Island Tours, and you can go for $50 on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays; $62 on Sundays and holidays; or $65 on Saturdays, including lift tickets and movies on the bus, but no refreshments. You can still go even if snow isn't in the forecast; snow machines whip up a winter wonderland on the slopes all season long.

Paragon Sporting Goods, 867 Broadway, at 18th St. (212-255-8036, ext. 271); Princeton Ski Shops, 21 E. 22nd St. (212-228-4400); Scandinavian Ski & Sport Shop, 40 W. 57th St. (212-757-8524); Island Tours (call 631-360-0369 or 718-343-4444 for details).

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