ALBANY - Thousands of students got the day off, and ski resorts got a late-season boost today thanks to a last-day-of-winter storm that dumped up to 10 inches of snow on parts of upstate New York.
Schools from central New York to the Adirondacks and the Hudson Valley were closed or started two hours late as the storm blasted the region with a mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain. The National Weather Service reported snowfall totals ranging from 6 inches in the Binghamton area to 10 inches in Saratoga County by this afternoon, with several inches more expected in some areas by the end of the day.
The snow provided New York's ski area operators with a major boost in business that was in stark contrast to last year's conditions in March, when record-setting warmth closed most slopes well before St. Patrick's Day.
"It's fantastic. What a difference a year makes," said Sue Parker, spokeswoman for Ski West Mountain in Queensbury, in the Adirondack foothills 50 miles north of Albany.
With most school districts north of Albany canceling classes because of the weather, many students headed to the local ski areas, including West Mountain.
"We've got a steady stream of people of coming," Parker said. "We're seeing a lot of kids off from school."
West Mountain typically closes around the end of March, but skiing could last into April because the storm had dumped up to 10 inches of snow by noon, she said.
"Last year we were done right after St. Patrick's weekend, when it was 70 degrees," Parker said.
For smaller ski areas that typically only open Friday through Sunday in March, the storm will provide at least one more strong weekend of business, said Scott Brandi, president of Ski Areas of New York.
"This is the best time of year to ski," Brandi said. "The snow guns have finished their work, there's plenty of snowfall, the weather is getting warmer, and the days are longer."
The snow caused numerous traffic problems, with slippery road conditions partly to blame for a crash on Interstate 86 in western New York that killed a 69-year-old Illinois woman. State police said Sharon Thompson of Loda, Ill., died Monday evening when the vehicle she was riding in crashed and overturned on a snow-covered stretch of the highway in Steuben County, 60 miles south of Rochester. Her husband, who was driving, was recovering at a hospital, troopers said.
The storm began causing problems Monday night in a four-county area east of the Hudson River, where troopers reported responding to more than 80 accidents and other weather-related traffic incidents.
"I am so ready for spring," said Sandy Borden, 42, of Schenectady, as she wrestled a shopping cart across a slushy Walmart parking lot in Glenville. "But this is nothing unusual. Winter in the Northeast. One day the snow is all gone and it's sunny, and the next day we're back in this mess. I can remember hiding Easter eggs in snow piles some years."
Associated Press writer Mary Esch in Albany contributed to this report.