Grenoble, France Feb. 18--If misery loves company, North American ski areas that struggled with less than great conditions from the start of the season through to the New Year may empathize with French resorts which dropped 17.5 percent for that period compared to last year, and down 12.5 percent from a four-year average. The figures come from the SNTF, the French equivalent of National Ski Areas Association, and were reported by the newsletter, "Montagne, La Lettre Economique." The principal villain was the weather, especially in the all-important second week of the Christmas holiday period which saw severe storms. The numbers for the Christmas-to- New Year week were down a whopping 31 percent from last year, and 23 percent from the four-year average. In France, the start of the ski season, defined as everything up through New Year's, represents only 20 percent of the whole season, leaving room for recovery.