Friday, December 11, 2015

Frightful Weather

Oh, the weather outside is … hardly frightful. Unless you’re trying to operate a cold weather-dependent business, or you actually like snow in winter. In that case, the spring-like weather this December is downright scary. We had a short-lived snowfall last week, which set my kids scrambling to get outside. But the first snowmen of the season have melted into crusty lumps of dirty snow, soggy hats, and wilted carrots. It’s safe to say Jack Frost isn’t nipping any noses lately.

Poor Frosty.
I know there are plenty of people enjoying the balminess, but it’s a major headache for ski areas and other businesses – and their employees – who rely on cold and snow to function. Springtime weather in December means fewer people are skiing, which means fewer ski area employees are receiving paychecks. And if you’re a Nordic ski area or snowmobile-related business, well, you’re plain out of luck.

I know I’m not the only one suffering the no-snow December blues. We East Coast skiers are a hardy bunch. We are eager to ski a strip of manmade snow in the early season, if that’s what our option is. We add as many layers as it takes to combat well-below-zero temperatures, and we learn young to lean into icy gusts of wind, lest we lose our grip on the snow. We are not put off by the hard stuff – blue ice, boiler plate, death cookies; call it what you will, we’ll ski it. Many of us have even resorted to donning refurbished Hefty bags to make skiing in the rain of a January thaw less, well, wet.

But when it’s 34 degrees and pouring rain the first week of December, or when the forecast calls for temperatures pushing 50 two weeks before Christmas, or when all that hard-earned snow-making effort is melting right back into the snow making lake – well, it’s hard on a skier’s psyche.

Each morning, as I sit down with my first cup of coffee and my keyboard, I peer out the window, seeking the distant lights of groomers shining through the darkness of pre-dawn: tiny beacons of hope. When the morning sky brightens, I look for the upward plumes of white along the ski trails at Cannon Mountain, signs that it is cold enough, at least, to make snow.

Most Decembers those manmade snow clouds rise in a steady march up the mountain, as the white stuff is pumped skyward to sift down onto the trails, the lifeblood of early season skiing in the Northeast. This year the snow guns have been shutting down by mid-morning most days, if they are fired up at all. It has been too warm to do much beyond laying down a narrow ribbon of white, building it up on cold nights so that it can survive the persistent onslaught of too-warm weather.

Still, my kids were beyond excited to get on the hill last weekend for their first ski outing of the season. They went to bed with visions of snowflakes pirouetting through their little skier dreams and woke Saturday morning raring to hit the slopes, limited as those slopes are at the moment. Instead of worrying about frozen toes and frostbitten noses, we shed layers as the temperatures climbed, and got a preposterously early start on our goggle tans.

It felt good to be skiing again after a long hiatus, and we’re ready for more: more snow, more skiing, more winter. Alas, the forecast remains more suited to April than December. The snow guns are idle until cooler weather returns. And I might have to dig out a Hefty bag for skiing before I don the down jacket.

Yes, the weather outside is frightful, indeed. 

Original content by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul, posted to her Blog: Writings From a Full Life. This essay also appears as Meghan's Close to Home column in the December 11, 2015 edition of the Littleton Record.

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