Busses Stuck on the Hill

“The thing is,” said my son afterwards, “No one even thought it was weird. It was just something that would happen in Vermont.”

He had a point. I dropped him off early for a nordic ski meet, then went to take a walk at the Green Mountain Audubon center. I had over an hour. I drove the couple miles out on the dirt road, passing a bus headed up, and started down the hill at the end. There was a bus there, pulled over at the bottom. Printed on the side was “White River Valley” so they had had a long drive already. That hill was a bit slick, but it didn’t seem too slick. Then again, I wasn’t driving a bus full of minors.

When I returned, the bus was still there. In fact, there now were three busses, from different school districts. I thought of offering to shuttle some skiers up, but I figured that was a non-starter. Parents have to sign a waiver to allow their kids to ride on the bus. Any good bus driver would not let them ride in some stranger’s vehicle, even if they had a current FBI background check. So I kept going.

Up at the ski center I learned that the race, no surprise to me, was delayed–busses stuck. I chatted with my son for a bit. Then someone passed looking for volunteers to shuttle people up. I guess they are being flexible with the transportation, I thought. So I headed back down the road again in my car.

At the bus, the first driver was, predictably, unwilling to let students go. I understood that. I asked if he knew the long way around. One of the busses was gone, so maybe they had already decided to take that route. A bunch of cars started to pile up, folks willing to transport skiers. Then the town truck arrived to sand the road. So the busses were no longer stuck, and we caravanned back to the ski center. I spent a lot of time on that road.

Eventually everyone got where they needed to be, and the race started, only 45 minutes late, and my son cranked it out despite the crappy conditions, and it was an event full of fun and hard work, and I saw a bunch of other parents I know, and it all worked out. There were plenty of people willing to help, and it felt to me like a conflict between neighborliness and liability.

Once upon a time neighborliness would have won the day. Today, safety and security take precedence. I don’t think one is better than the other, or that one way should be the right way. I just noticed it in this case. I would have done just what those bus drivers did. But still, it would have been nice to have a bunch of people solve a problem and make the solution happen. And that is something, I am sure, is not unique to Vermont, even if those busses stuck on an icy hill was a classic Vermont situation.

Snow on Thanksgiving

We headed up to Stowe on Friday and it was snowing. It snowed for days. On Saturday, five days before the earliest Thanksgiving possible, we went nordic skiing at Trapp Family Lodge. It was some of the best conditions I have seen there. There were some (sort of) thin spots where water flowed underground, or where the wind blew across a field, but that can happen even mid-winter. It was March skiing in November.

We skied several times last week. The woods were magical. Winter wonderland and whatnot. And we cozied up inside by the fire. Since we were staying up there, we walked down every morning for coffee at the Kaffeehaus. We even walked down Friday morning when it was below zero.  We also got pastries there. They know how to do pastries. Couldn’t get enough of those, especially that almond croissant jobber, so it was a good thing it was a solid walk to get there or I might have gone twice each day. Maybe I did go twice one day. None of your business.

You can’t say snow isn’t beautiful. I mean, you could, if you are a curmudgeon, but seriously? Snow covers up the blemishes of the natural and the human world. It helps us see things in new ways. It makes its own sculptures. It is art. Check out this pic:

The wind had blown oak leaves, which cling longer than most, onto the clean field of snow. Many of them speared the surface and stood there–a crowd of oak leaves, waiting for someone to tell them where to go. They went nowhere. The next day, snow lay a blanket over them–temporary art transformed into a metaphor for slumber.

When we left, the day after Thanksgiving, the sun shone on more fresh snow. It gleamed. It glistened. Ski tracks called but we did not listen. We headed back home, leaving the wonderland behind. We still have snow here, just not as much. Tips of grass stand out in the meadow. Trees have no white. Snow is fickle, so hopefully it at least sticks around up high. If it doesn’t come to us, we will go find it in the mountains. I’ll give thanks for that.

Double Snow Day

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It happened once before, several years ago, but that is a once-in-a-school-kid’s-lifetime situation–two snow days in a row. Now I guess we have proved it can happen twice.

Snow started falling about 9:00 Tuesday morning. It kept falling all day. It was cranking late on Tuesday, just dumping, piling up and blowing. It was a storm indeed. A blizzard, as it were. Snow kept falling overnight. At morning light it was still falling hard. And it did not stop until late in the day. The sun, if we could have seen it, would have been hanging just over the horizon when the snow stopped falling. As we ate dinner, late, the last of the snow sifted down. And then it stopped.

By the time it was over we had over 30 inches of snow. We got lucky. And when I say lucky I mean we got more snow than elsewhere. Some towns nearby got 14 inches or 22 inches or 18 inches. Somehow we ended up in the sweet spot. We trudged through it and dug tunnels and made tracks to ski in the meadow. And then we skied in the meadow. We jumped and did flips to fall into drifts. We came in to dry out and played games and ate lunch and watched a movie together. It was some quality family time.

It was a gift. Sure, it is fun to get to stay home from school or work. But having the time to do things together, when we are definitely not going anywhere due to the weather, to play and laugh and share the days–that is something you can’t beat. We took advantage of it, which is good, because two snow days back to back won’t happen again. At least, I’m pretty sure it won’t happen again.

Today, I have to get back out there, at least for a little while. I had a meeting cancelled (roads still not cleared) so I need to take advantage of that, too. Another gift. I need to appreciate it while I’ve got it.

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Not Out in the Snow

Yesterday it snowed most of the day. Today there was fresh snow on the ground, flurries on and off. I work in lots of different places, with no office or standard workplace to speak of. Yesterday and today I hung out in a library, meeting students.

The place is well lit, with lots of windows. I sat next to the windows, facing into the building so students could find me. But I turned around a lot. Sometimes, when I had a moment, I would stare out there. I would watch the snow fall, look at the piles of it. I would imagine being out in it.

I wasn’t in the middle of nowhere. I was next to a parking lot. But I have a good imagination. I imagined, in a few spare moments, being in the wilderness, skiing where the wind provides the only sound aside from the shush of skis. The Wind River Range in Wyoming, the mountains of Idaho, the Green Mountain Ridge. I thought of these places I had been.

Two days ago I worked in a windowless conference room. It was snowing like crazy and I didn’t know it for hours. This morning, at least, I did get out in it. I skied several laps around the meadow. It was just light enough. I had to break new tracks in places where the wind had filled them in. A Great Horned Owl hooted in the woods. A couple of crows called back and forth. Snow Buntings trilled across the road. Then I went to the library.

I will ski again tomorrow. Maybe in the mountains, maybe right here. We’ll see what happens. I might read for a while, looking out at the snow from the warm house. But I won’t do that in the library. I’ve spent enough time there this week.

Going to Snow Land

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Down here in the valley we have little snow. Oh we have some patches here and there. It snowed this morning, in fact, and a dusting tried to gather on the cold ground. But really things are brown and gray with some dark green punctuation. So yesterday we took a trip up to where the snow can be found.

Head up just a little bit and you can find snow. We went to Stowe and parked the van at Trapp Family Lodge. We clicked on our nordic skies and headed uphill into the woods. The sky was mostly cloudy but blue popped out here and there. I skied with the whole fam–spouse, daughter, son. My offspring can ski my pants off now. They have been taking lessons with a ski program a couple days each week. They have come a long way, skill-wise, since our first trip on those same trails.

We skied only slightly uphill at first but then hit the steeper trails. Trapp Family Lodge has a backcountry cabin a couple of miles in. Caretakers there serve hot soup and sandwiches and hot cocoa and tea. On a chilly day and after some work getting up there, that is a treat. That trip to the cabin, which once was a huge adventure for my kids, was yesterday a solid ski that they described at taking “so much less time than it used to!” True, that.

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The trails are groomed and the snow was perfect. It was just the antidote to the dreary snowlessness of the valley. We have talked many times of moving where there might be more snow–higher in elevation, farther north. We miss snow. Records show that our town used to get more snow that we get now. That rots for us in these days of warming. One of these days we might do it. My wife, however, pointed out that it will just be a matter time before Stowe gets too little snow as well. True (I am afraid), that.

This week? Rain in the forecast. Even up high. That is whey we had to get up there. We had to slide around in the fresh snow before it melts away. Hopefully we will get more chances this winter to romp about in the white stuff. As always, I will try to be optimistic. We had a neighbor, back in the days when we lived on the mountain, who had a vanity plate: PRY4SNO. Maybe I will try that.

A Chilly Day then a Stellar Day for Vermont Maple Weekend

IMG_0177Last weekend was Vermont Maple Weekend. Sugarhouses across the state were open for visitors. We started the day Saturday at Shelburne Farms, with their annual pancake breakfast, a fundraiser for the local 4H. It was not especially crowded. We have attended several years in a row and it is often so crowded that seats at the long tables are scarce and the line for pancakes is long. Not so last Saturday. It was too cold.

The temperature when we arrived was maybe 21, 22 degrees, but the wind was whipping. The wind chill was easily in the single digits. Lots of people there were ready for spring, but pushing the season with a lighter jacket does not make it any warmer. My parents were visiting and they were not the only ones to turn back before exploring the sugarhouse. No steam was coming from the sugarhouse roof, so it looked like that refuge would not be all that warm. It turns out they were boiling but they had just started; a head of steam had not built up yet.

Steam just making its way out of the sugarhouse

Steam just making its way out of the sugarhouse

Inside the sugarhouse

Inside the sugarhouse

We watched some boiling and sampled some syrup (it had a hard time flowing from the small paper sample cups given the temperature). We walked up into the sugarbush and had some sugar on snow. We checked out the live bird demonstration. We had fun but we did not last as long as other years. We got chilled.

Sap lines running downhill but mostly frozen

Sap lines running downhill but mostly frozen

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One-eyed Screech Owl

The next day we went skiing. The sun came out and we had a perfect spring skiing day. It had snowed the night before so up high enough the snow was powdery. Once the sun warmed things up a bit, the lower snow was corn snow–loose, large grains. We were warm in the sun and skiing down fast. It was a treat. So we started off cold but ended the weekend feeling like spring was ready to really hit us.

We made a stop at Shelburne Sugarworks as well, but they were so busy it would have taken a good chunk of time to fill our glass gallon jug. So we put that off. We will need to get over there soon to get that filled up. We will want that sweet liquid over this next year. Those awesome buttermilk pancakes just are not as good without it.

Perfect day for skiing

Perfect day for skiing

Lots of Snow Still Sticking Around

IMG_0069Most winters we get some snow here and there, and the total we get adds up to a pretty decent amount. We also usually get rain, however, or at least a solid thaw. We don’t typically get lots of snow that stays on the ground as the kind of snow one can enjoy. It often turns to slush, or freezes solid enough to walk on. This year we have snow for skiing and it has been sticking around.

This past week was vacation week from school. All of us were home and we did not venture anywhere beyond our local haunts. This meant we went skiing several times. We leased skis for our kids this year, as we have the past couple of years. This is a good deal, first because they our kids are growing so fast that buying skis makes little sense financially; they will grow enough that the boots and skis are too small by the next season. As a bonus with the lease deal each set comes with an envelope of coupons. These include free or discount passes to local ski areas. Those coupons alone make it worth the lease. The amount we save with them more than pays for the lease. This past week we skied at Bolton Valley.

It was cold. It has been a cold winter and last week that cold continued. Some of the days last week we ruled out as ski days just because it would have been unpleasant. When the high temperature is forecast to be in the single digits in the valley, with strong winds, well, skiing just isn’t all that fun. It takes a lot of energy to ignore numb toes and frozen cheeks. It gets unsafe even. But we went when temperatures were in the teens, and the sun was shining. That was way fun. The last time we went was what one calls a Bluebird Day–clear skis and no wind and just awesome. We rode the lift up and skied our way down over and over, breaking only for lunch and heading home in the afternoon. Tons of fun.

When your kids are tuckered and they tell you “I love skiing” on the way home, you know you have hit the winning number. Since we live in a state with many ski areas, it makes sense to take advantage of that resource. The snow was great (not icy at all as it often can be when the snow fails to accumulate enough), the sun was shining, and we all have the skill to really just have a blast. Plenty of people will tell you they are sick of winter, but when we get so much snow, and it keeps piling up, I just cannot complain. I hate to complain anyway. That just seems like a waste of energy to me. Enjoy this now while it is here, I say. Spring will be here soon enough.