STOWE, Vt. - A winter storm that wreaked havoc on the Upper Midwest continued its snowy assault on the East yesterday, spelling trouble for travelers but elation for ski resorts that suffered through an abysmal winter last year.

Drivers in much of the region had to navigate a mix of rain, sleet and snow as the storm - blamed for at least 17 deaths - lumbered eastward, blanketing northern New England overnight and threatening to dump as much as 20 inches in places.

At the same time, a storm system began lashing the West Coast, and it was expected to give the Midwest a second blast of snow starting today.

In Vermont, 7 inches of snow welcomed skiers and snowboarders yesterday morning.

"It's not snow; it's white gold," said Christopher Francis, innkeeper at Ye Olde England Inne, in the shadow of Stowe Mountain Resort.

But elsewhere, school was canceled or classes delayed from New York to Maine as highways turned slippery and winds gusted to 40 m.p.h.

At Portland International Jetport in Maine, flights were canceled because of poor conditions at connecting airports.

But in northern New England, snowstorms are considered almost sacred, and parka-clad snow lovers will skip school, work or other commitments to take advantage.

"We were supposed to be leaving today, but we decided to stay once we saw the weather," said snowboarder James Bykowski, 31, of Belmar, N.J.