Carving turkey, not snow
November 16, 2007
It’s dry! Worse yet, it’s warm! Worst of all, they say there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it.
It’s bleak out there with less than a week to go before the ski lifts are supposed to crank up. Lots of people suggest that we not worry about the lack of frozen precipitation, since it obviously doesn’t do any good, but I don’t get that logic. Why is the weather any different than most of the other stuff we worry about?
Fretting about high pressure systems means I care about what falls out of the sky, and how could I possibly love skiing if I didn’t care that snow falls out of the sky? It follows then that you can’t truly love skiing if you aren’t worried about the weather. (Author’s note: In the previous sentence, I would have used the politically correct term that encompasses all forms of purposefully sliding down icy slopes on whatever slippery contraption that suits your fancy, but I honestly couldn’t remember it. I was going to think a little harder, but I actually feel kind of proud that I can’t recall it. So, I’m sticking with “skiing” here. No offense is intended, except to the overly sensitive.)
Besides, I am in the minority around here who actually believe there is something we can do about the weather. We can talk about it! It’s an age-old Aspen tradition that has its roots in ranching, as far as I know, and probably extends deeper into our past than that. There is wisdom in this ritual. After all, would there be any point in noticing the weather if you weren’t going to discuss it? And, if you didn’t notice it, wouldn’t that be tantamount to taking it for granted? Further, isn’t taking this incredible place for granted the cardinal local sin and proof enough that you are living here for all of the wrong reasons? OK then, enough said. Grab another cup of coffee, and let’s talk about the weather. It’s a big deal around these parts!
I remember the winter of 1976-77. I was a freshman in high school, and it was the budding period of my cognizant love affair with skiing. It was the only thing this scrawny kid with a cracking voice was any good at, or at least it afforded me the opportunity to get away from a world gone disco and pretend I was good at it. At any rate, it was respite from the trials of growing up in little, old, truly quaint Aspen and having the world by the tail but not quite yet strong enough to swing it.
That’s a fair enough build-up to tell you that it didn’t snow until the end of January that winter, and even then not very much. We golfed on Christmas Day! Before that, beginning in about mid-September, clouds simply stopped forming over the western United States. Every morning, I woke to the disappointment of blue skies. It got so bad that jet contrails had difficulty appearing in the dry upper atmosphere, and when they did the town was hopeful that a storm might materialize out of them. It was painful to be that desperate.
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What makes this all the more incredible is that it happened long before we knew anything about global warming, and it hasn’t been that dry around here ever since. Paradoxically, I think we cared less about the planet and more about the weather back then. The U.S.S.R. and our own protectors of truth and justice for all were prepped to blow all living creatures into another star’s orbit without prior warning. It was all we could do to get out for one last set of turns down Bell Mountain. Crazy as it sounds, the threat of nuclear oblivion forced us to live our lives for the day, and most were content to let our yet to be great-great-grandkids fend for themselves. Should they ever get the chance to, we figured that they would be grateful.
Maybe that’s why the great dearth of snow that year was so depressing. We didn’t know if there would be another season. That’s the sort of things I thought about while hiding beneath my desk during the bombing drills. We felt we had nothing to lose and everything to gain, so we came up with nutty ideas like seeding the clouds with magnesium oxide to coax a little snow out of them. We never found out if it worked, be-cause, as I said before, there were no clouds to seed.
We survived that year and got to the next, and it snowed again like it always had before. We became brazen and began talking like survivors of the great drought of ’76, which was easy to do all the way up until the great drought of 1980 took hold. Rather quickly, we were humble and scared about how dependent we were on nature. Of course, we all vowed to be good people again if God would give us a little snow to slide around on and make money from. Then, when he didn’t give it to us, we got angry and pouted and let him know that he shouldn’t be surprised that we couldn’t maintain our spirituality if we couldn’t wake up every morning to pristine white peaks soaring above us. Brown and gray aren’t very inspiring colors to anyone except the most ascetic believers. Eventually it snowed, though, and we were thankful once again, until the lifts opened and we pretty much forgot about him until we began hitting rocks again.
Now, that’s a lot of talk about God in a short span of newsprint, but if it stays dry around here for a little while longer, you’ll get it. Besides, the point of all this is to talk about the weather, and we never know where that will lead. If, however, we are diligent in our small talk, we can be certain that one of two things will happen: Either it will snow more abundantly than any of us has ever imagined (like it did in the winter of 1983-84), or it won’t. I think it’s worth a try.
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