Cold Wind and Drifting Snow

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The high temperature today was 2 degrees. Cold. The wood stove did its work. The chickadees and tree sparrows and woodpeckers kept busy at the feeders. Snow fell early and clouds passed in and out the rest of the day. It wasn’t summer.

And the wind blew. It howled. It battered the house. It buffeted the windows. It whipped the snow. Snow eddied on the porch and piled against the door. Snow gathered on the lee side of snow banks. It formed drifts in the road. The wind-chill adjusted temperature was about 25 degrees below zero. Not a day for sunbathing.

The driveway drifted in. That does not often happen but this is the kind of day it would drift in. It is a long driveway, next to a meadow, so I suppose it is to be expected. The house came with snow fencing when we bought it. We have never put it up as it hasn’t been needed. Our plow guy made an extra trip today.

This afternoon I took a few laps around the field on my skis. The track that my son and I made yesterday afternoon was almost totally hidden in drifting snow. We had to make that track because the previous one got snowed in. So I followed the track I could  find and broke a new one where the track had disappeared. Snow blasted against my jacket, although I was well covered. My eye lashes froze from my breath’s condensation.

The second time I looped around, much of my track had vanished again and the rest was hard to see. This happened each time. It was not fast skiing. The day, however, was beautiful. The landscape changed by the moment. Snow swirled in misty towers and sped low across the road. The sun shone periodically and the world glowed when it did. I stayed out for while before filling the bird feeders, hauling in more firewood, and settling inside again.

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Ski tracks after fewer than ten minutes

Tonight the low is forecast at -13. That’s exciting. It likely won’t get out of the single digits tomorrow. It has been three weeks since the temperature got above freezing. Looks like that won’t happen again for a while. Still, I’ll get outside and enjoy the snow. Meteorological spring, after all, is a mere five weeks away.

 

Skiing the Meadow

IMG_5839I rose fairly early this morning. After some coffee and some work email, I headed outside for a quick ski. Some winters we don’t get enough snow to make skiing a possibility all that many days but lately we have been getting the white stuff in plenty. I need to take advantage of it.

The sun was not up when I headed across the field but it was light enough to see well. My skis shushed along the ski track I created by taking multiple laps around the field. Yesterday I looped around several times, breaking trail at first, then packing the track down a little more with each pass. Today it was smooth, filled with an inch of new snow. It was nine degrees but I was dressed for it. I only did half a dozen laps, stopping at one point simply to listen.

Last night and again tonight we headed out there after dinner. We donned headlamps and skied in the dark. The world is smaller in the dark, especially with a headlamp, becoming a small circle of light. Turn the light off and the world is less bright but broadens. Four headlamps bounced along last night. Tonight just my son and I skied a few laps. Light snow fell, as it did this morning. This is winter at its finest, morning and evening.

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Not Spring Now

Snow coming down hard

Snow coming down hard

It started snowing early in the day. School was cancelled. Then the snow let up. I went to work. Luckily I only was in town half the day. The drive home was slick and slow. Then it really started to snow. By late in the day it was coming down and the wind picked up. And the temperature dropped. We had ourselves a snowstorm.

I went for a ski around the field. It was fine when I had my back to the wind but heading into the wind–ouch! Those little crystals of ice are painful when they slam into one’s face. My hood was a handy tool. By my second lap my ski tracks were almost filled in.

Skiing in the blowing snow

Skiing in the blowing snow

This morning the snow was still falling. Drifts piled against the house. I could only see out half the bedroom window. No school today. I will get some work done from home. First, however, I plan to rekindle the fire in the stove and to brew some coffee. And to appreciate being warm inside.

Cold Day to Be Out

Beautiful Ski Day

Federal holiday? Check. Day off for me? Check. Cold? Yes sir.

The day started at our house at 14 degrees below zero. OK, it really started at 12 below when I first got up, then dropped to 14 below by sunrise. Cold enough to experiment with a Super Soaker filled with boiling water. Which I did not do. Every day can’t be perfect can it?

I took my daughter skiing today. We bundled up and headed to the slopes because it was a sunny day and we had the time and we should do it while the snow lasts. Vermont has this great program where every fifth grader can get a Ski Vermont Passport, which includes three passes to most ski areas in Vermont. She has one. Awesome, right? Except there are black out dates. The days when most people will be able to go are the days it does not apply. Love that crap. But we went anyway and paid way too much for a ticket for her even though it was way cheaper at Bolton Valley than at some other ski areas. That is why the passport is such a good deal. Just not today. Anyway, we went skiing and had a great time and there was plenty of snow and it was sunny as all get out and simply beautiful today. But it was cold and breezy. Maybe 15 degrees tops. We got cold hands and feet and took some runs and warmed them up and went inside to get warmer still and had a snack and called it halfway through the day.

After a sandwich in Waterbury we headed up Route 100. I tried hard, and pretty much succeeded, in convincing my daughter that we had a chance to see something amazing. A northern hawk owl has been hanging around Waterbury for a couple of months now. This resident of the far north rarely comes down our way and to have one so close is a chance to see something in nature that many people simply won’t ever get to see. It has stayed in the same general area and many people have had a chance to see it, but until today I have not tried to see it. I noted to my daughter that people are driving up to Waterbury from all parts to see this owl as it is their best chance to see one without having to head to the tundra. I learned that someone had seen the bird that very morning so I was hopeful.

Even on a bitter Monday afternoon we ran into six other people looking for the hawk owl. No one had seen it. We didn’t either. We stuck around for a while but were out of luck. Hopefully I will have another chance. It won’t stick around forever. So we headed home, warm in the car, quiet. A good morning of skiing, some fun together, a foray to find something interesting. Not a bad way to spend a Monday. Happy Presidents Day.

Snow at Last

White Stuff in the Viewshed

Finally we got some snow yesterday. We spent an hour or so outside as a family last night tossing the stuff at each other. We got wet. We got chilly. We slept well. Today we had good reason to play. We sledded. We skied on the hill and in the field. We had some good fun. The temperature never got all that high. It was in the single digits by the afternoon. Still, we could not stay in all day. The wood stove did its duty for us today.

The temperature should get below zero tonight. We will snuggle down and sleep well again. We will still have snow again tomorrow. The parents in the household need to decide if skiing is worth it with wind chills in the negatives. Skiing? To be determined. We will play one way or the other. I just hope the snow sticks around.

Snow for the New Year

The forecast has been like a wobbly top lately. A little snow. A big storm. No storm. Some snow. Lots of snow. A big storm. Right now it is snowing. It has been snowing pretty much all day and on and off yesterday as well. It is likely to keep falling all day tomorrow and tomorrow night. Beautiful stuff.

We had a family ski afternoon. I got cold, but I got to try out my new skis, at least a little. Mostly I skied with my kids. This meant slow but steady for one and slow for the other. It wasn’t mad aggressive skiing as an adult. I truly enjoyed watching my children ski, however. They both have it down at this point. They can ski without physical aids (no holding them, no leash, no nothin’) and have fun doing it. They both raved about how fun it is. My daughter even said “One day I’ll be a famous skier.” Could happen.

And I enjoyed my skis. I have had the same pair for over a decade. They still work fine but it sure is nice to take advantage of new style and technology. These should suit me for all kinds of conditions. I skied without goggles today, which was not the most comfortable situation for the old face, but I just don’t have any that fit. I have purchased my share of goggles over the years but I have never had a pair that simply fits without lots of fussing when no fussing is appropriate. I plan to get a pair soon. And maybe some new gloves. I am kind of a miser when it comes to gear. But I am ready to make some investments.

And the snow falls. This was our first skiing adventure this year and it reminded me just how much fun it is. It won’t be long before our children are bombing down the mountain and my wife and I can ski together again. I hope she can still stand me by the time that happens. She is out there now, cross country skiing as the light fades. Actually, the light is pretty much gone now, but she is still out there. Let’s hope the bobcat doesn’t get her. It has been back several times now, as evidenced by its tracks. Hopefully it isn’t too hungry yet.

Half a foot of snow on the ground. More tonight. I love this stuff. Too bad it isn’t falling on the eve of a school day so we can have a snow day. Although, bad weather leading to bad driving isn’t necessarily a recipe for a snow day these days. Too many complaining parents. Safety first, unless the timing isn’t right. So I guess this snow falling today and tomorrow is about right after all. We will hole up at home tomorrow, play outside, probably not ski again, but who knows? We will look for bobcat tracks, build the snow fort higher, sled down the hill. Happy new year with snow. That ain’t bad.

“Night” Skiing

We went up as a family to Bolton Valley this evening for one last bout of night skiing.  The last time I did this was with my daughter, just the two of us, before the daylight savings shenanigans; we skied under the lights and had a blast.  The children were disappointed that there was still plenty of daylight tonight.  We left just after 7:00, the sun setting as we walked back to the car.

Since we lived up at Bolton Valley, we have known that this time of year one can find some of the best skiing to be had.  There is plenty of snow by now and the days are warm enough to soften up even the gnarliest ice.  And now we have sunlight so late that it is more enjoyable than working with the shadows of the bright lights.  In December scores of people are on the mountain.  Often it is icy and thin and crowded and that, I can tell you, is not what I’m talking about.

People get sick of skiing once the warm weather hits.  School skiing programs end.  I think a lot of people kind of forget about it.  They start biking and skateboarding and whatnot.  Spring activities get underway.  Who wants more snow?  At least it seems that is the question that gets asked.  But it really is the time to hit the slopes.  Spring skiing means warm air, fewer people and lots of snow.  What’s not to like?

We were not up there long tonight.  We did a few runs, ate the light dinner we brought, shared a waffle from the waffle cabin and headed home in the fading light.  We will head up again tomorrow to ski with friends.  We are now debating whether or not to purchase season’s passes for next year.  My daughter is now old enough that we need to purchase a pass for her.  With the current prices (“low” for now, soon to rise) it would cost us over a thousand bucks.  Is it worth it?

If we go as many times as this year, and take advantage of discounts and deals when we find them, we might come out even or even ahead when it comes to the bottom line.  The problem is that without passes we will likely go less.  Every time we consider going it will become a financial decision–Do we want to spend a hundred bucks for a couple of runs? Some of those times we will decide not to go because our answer will be no.  Do we want to decide whether we go today or wait until tomorrow?  Or do we want to decide whether we go skiing this weekend at all?

It is a tough call.  I get that we are fortunate enough to be in the position of parsing the details of this question.  I want our kids to learn to ski or ride and choose for themselves if it is a sport they want to pursue.  That means getting them out when they are young.  Just going a handful of times would be fun, but to really learn it they need to do it a lot.  Whether we get passes or not we are talking some bucks.

We had a good time tonight.  Since we spent the money on passes months ago, we had the incentive to go so we get our money’s worth, and we also could feel fine with just a few runs.  Next year could be a different story.