18 Degrees is The New Normal: Learning to Embrace Snow
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS—New York City, December 2011. The city is slammed by a massive snowstorm dubbed Snowmageddon, leaving hundreds stranded all over the five boroughs. Mass transit screeches to a virtual standstill, and people raid supermarkets, stockpiling canned food and water. They make a trip or two to the liquor store, making sure they have all of the essentials covered. The thought of “going to work tomorrow” is almost non-existent—the only thing on everyone’s mind is procuring goods suddenly deemed invaluable to survival and making it home as quickly as possible, where they can change into sweatpants and wait out the storm from the comfort of their couch.
Steamboat Springs, December 2015. The town is slammed by a succession of snowy days, accumulating just under four feet of snow in less than a week. An additional two feet has fallen since Monday morning. Spirits are raised, and everyone is excited. Talk of “pow days” increases exponentially, and bus drivers don’t bat an eye. Snow plows clear parking lots, making large piles ten or twenty feet high. Ford F-350s suddenly seem like useful vehicles, as does wearing long underwear with jeans. Walking to work is approached with a casual indifference; snow boots become the norm. In short, nothing changes. Nothing at all.
I’ve never lived in a place that has truly embraced the cold. Not like this. To me, snowstorms are meteorological aberrations, not casual weather patterns to be celebrated. Apparently El Nino is wrecking havoc, and this is just the beginning. By many estimates, 2015-16 is set to be a heavy year for snow in Colorado…I guess I picked the right season to live here. If I’m going to spend a ski season in the Rockies, we might as well go all out and have one of the most extreme winters on record. It also contrasts greatly with New York's Springtime for Christmas, where the average December temperature has been 13 degrees higher than normal.
It’s a curious thing how quickly you can become used to a new environment. In my heart of hearts I’ll always be a beach bum—to me, the mountains don’t hold a candle to the ocean—but I must admit, there is something alluring about the golden-hour alpenglow framed among endless groves of aspens, each with a few hundred pounds of fresh snow piled on top. It makes for a spectacular piece of scenery; all you need to do is bundle up and brace yourself for a wickedly cold winter.
18 degrees is almost normal. The cold is biting, though somewhat more bearable than it’s always been to me. Perhaps it’s because I’m living in a place that thrives on cold and snow, or perhaps “dry cold” really is less harsh than the “wet cold” back east that everyone always yaps about. It might be that there’s actually something to do outside when it’s cold—I’m used to winter being a time when you huddle indoors, hoarding calories and watching movies. In Colorado, winter is a time to be active. It’s a time to be outside, and celebrate the fact that we’re living in a gorgeous place with the facilities to fully enjoy it.
In short, snow is something to be celebrated and embraced. It’s not an impediment to living your daily life; it’s an essential component to the vigor of your daily life. It can be a challenge to deal with, but it’s also a lesson in getting used to a sort of new normal, and learning to love it. And boy, am I loving it…even if it means waking up in the morning, checking the hourly forecast, and not thinking twice about the fact that it’s unlikely to reach double digits all day.