Snow storage. It’s a term I learned in Valdez, Alaska. I visited in the summer, but I couldn’t miss the extra wide streets with large medians down the middle. Yards had extra space near driveways. There were massive open lots. All designed to pile up excess snow to make room for more when an average of 300″ fall each winter.
Now I get it. In Duluth, this is the winter that just won’t quit. The snow keeps coming, the banks climb higher and our plow service had to bring in a special machine to make room around our driveway to clear the snow yet to come. With over 125″ of snowfall, it’s already the 6th snowiest winter on record, just 10″ from the top.
Rich and I have done our best to find respite from this relentless winter. Two weeks in Hawaii, a trip to visit my son in Seattle, and a week in Tucson were all welcome breaks from the snow and cold. And yet winter still reigns.
Don’t get me wrong. I love winter. And I love it most when it is snowy and keeps refreshing the ski trails and piles up for snowshoeing. So I’m all for this snow. But April is beckoning.
Perhaps this is my payback for checking out of winter this year. The weather gods were giving me a chance to catch up on what I missed. So who was I to argue? It was time I embraced it, even if it felt like the wrong season.
Thirteen inches of new snow just begged for snowshoeing. I’ve learned that I need to get out early in order to plunder untrampled trails, to sink into virgin powder and share the forest with only the birds and animal tracks. Snow still blanketed the trees and even though I ducked low beneath the branches overhanging the trail, snow still slithered down my neck now and then. But in the late season’s mild temperature, I didn’t care.
I got antsy to ski. I knew the groomer had not yet worked its magic, so I grabbed my classic skis and prepared to trudge. I was relieved to find that one or two intrepid skiers had already broken trail, and I slipped my skis into their tracks. It required more push than glide, but that wasn’t the point. The brilliant sunshine, peaceful shush of my skis and the smooth undulation of the snow filled my senses. Winter at its best, no matter what the calendar said.
By the next snowfall, I had succumbed to the draw of upscale snowshoes. Tired of trying to work resistant buckles with stiff frozen fingers, I salivated over some Tubbs with easy in-and-out bindings and extra features like heel lifts. I pressed Add to Cart and they came in time for the next six inch snowfall.
Since I wasn’t as quick to get out, the local trails were already groomed for fat tire bikes. I took to the banks as often as I could, finding soft snow atop an older crusty layer. The spikes gripped like a dream and I floated over the snow. Even on the packed trail, I had all the traction I needed. That short trial run only whetted my appetite for more.
Skiing in warmer conditions also has its own unique guidelines. I’m a morning person, but in the season of melt and refreeze I have to exercise my limited patience and wait until afternoon when the snow will begin to soften. Sure enough, the skate deck that was rock hard the day before was melting in the sun and had just enough give to provide my skis with the edge I needed. It was a delight to ski in minimal layers as I made my way around the Lester-Amity trail system.
I’ve only been home for two weeks, yet it feels like a winter’s quota of outdoor splendor. I think I have caught up on winter.