DENVER (AP) _ Skiers swooshed through crisp powder on Colorado's slopes Monday _ the first day of winter _ thanks to a snowstorm that ended a month-long drought just in time for Christmas.

``It's like a Christmas card up here,'' said Joan Christensen, a spokeswoman for Winter Park, a resort about 40 miles west of Denver that received 8 inches of snow over the weekend. ``I've been holding my breath.''

Cold weather and flurries in other areas weren't always greeted with cheer. Snow dusted the mountains of Southern California and record cold was felt up and down the state. Temperatures in Lubbock, Texas, dropped to the mid-teens and streets were slippery from flurries. Icy roads turned deadly in some areas.

``You don't live in Texas so it can get this cold,'' said James Winden, a 29-year-old computer programmer. ``I'm going to cut it short today and put a fire in the fireplace.''

The snow in Colorado was welcome news for businesses. Customers were waiting for the doors to open when Glenn Prince arrived for work at Aspen Sports-Aspen Center in Snowmass Village.

``Our hats and goggles are flying out the door,'' Prince said.

Since mid-November, the slopes in California's Sierra Nevada and the southern Colorado resorts of Telluride, Purgatory and Wolf Creek have reveled in plentiful snow. But the storms bypassed the mountains of central and northern Colorado.

That forced resorts such as Vail, Aspen, Beaver Creek and Breckenridge to cover their slopes with artificial snow.

Sales were down at businesses ranging from pizza places to hotels, and operators were getting concerned when the storm finally brought snow for their skier customers.

Weekend snowfall amounts at ski resorts included 9 inches at Aspen, 10 at Beaver Creek and 6 at Breckenridge. Telluride, one of those already enjoying good snow cover, got an additional 20 inches.

The weekend storm was part of a cold air mass that plunged much of the northern Rockies and northern Plains below zero, with Butte, Mont., dropping to a record 36 below late Sunday. West Yellowstone, Mont., had an overnight low of 45 below.

In Colorado, the cold concentrated on the eastern side of the Rockies, with daytime highs barely getting above zero Sunday and Monday. Limon, on the Plains east of Denver, had a low of 21 below zero. A homeless man died while sleeping on a Denver street Saturday, but the cause of death had not been determined.

The storm had moved out of Colorado on Monday, but forecasters said there was a chance of more snow in the mountains for Christmas.

``There are tons of smiles out there today, that's for sure,'' said Vail spokesman Paul Witt.

In The Plains, storms that slicked roads with snow and ice were blamed for five traffic deaths in Kansas and eight in Missouri since Sunday. Slippery roads in Oklahoma were blamed for 12 traffic fatalities, including a Texas woman and her three children.