Songs about roasting chestnuts, winter wonderlands and a runaway snowman once again helped propel KOST-FM (103.5) to the top of the local radio ratings.

Figures released Monday by Arbitron showed that the adult contemporary music station's annual switch to a holiday-themed playlist paid huge dividends, as it has for most of the years since it began the tradition in 2001.

Whereas KOST had been in sixth place the month before with a 3.6% share of the Los Angeles-Orange County audience, it ranked No. 1 in the survey period that ran from Nov. 7 to Dec. 4, garnering a 6.3% share. More than 3.4 million people tuned in for at least five minutes each week.

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Moving in the opposite direction were the morning ratings of Mexican music station KLAX-FM (97.9), which had been No. 1 for six months in a row but plummeted to 12th after host Ricardo "El Mandril" Sanchez was taken off the air in early November for reasons that station owner Spanish Broadcasting System has declined to make clear. KLAX's morning audience share dropped by 50% from the previous month, and the station's overall audience share was down 16%.

Instead, Kevin Ryder and Gene "Bean" Baxter of alternative rock station KROQ-FM (106.7) found themselves at the top of the heap in the key competitive period of 6-10 a.m. weekdays. They pulled in 5.2% of the audience. In the runner-up spot was talk station KFI-AM (640), which splits the time between local host Bill Handel and syndicated host Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh's show is moving next month from its longtime home of KFI, which ranked eighth in the market overall, to KTLK-AM (1150), which ranked 50th.

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Both stations are owned by radio giant Clear Channel, and the company is seeking to boost KTLK's standing by rebranding it "The Patriot" and offering a lineup of all-conservative voices, including Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck.

KIIS-FM (102.7), which had been No. 1 in the market for the last three months, dropped to No. 3 this time out.

The top 10 stations in terms of audience share were, in order, KOST, KBIG-FM (104.3), KIIS, KPWR-FM (105.9), KRTH-FM (101.1), KAMP-FM (97.1), KROQ, KFI, KLVE-FM (107.5) and KTWV-FM (94.7).

lee.margulies@latimes.com