Paul Andersen: Hey, how about that weather!
Farmers and skiers have a lot in common.
Both depend on the weather for a favorable outlook on life, and both rely on mechanical contrivances for cultivation. Tractors plow and furrow the earth, while snowcats plow and furrow corduroy slopes.
Farmers and skiers sport the same bright-red faces, with hat lines across their foreheads, while the rest of their bodies remain pasty white beneath either Carhart coveralls or one-piece ski suits. Mark my words, the Carhart ski suit is not far from the ski fashion designer’s portfolio.
But weather is the key factor for this odd commonality between yeoman and snowman. Farmers and skiers both depend upon precipitation as their lifeblood. Both fixate on the Weather Channel or the Farmer’s Almanac as their oracles. Both pray to the pagan gods of meteorology for deliverance, whether for winter wheat or November face shots.
But the fascination with weather goes far beyond skiing and farming, and has spread into entertainment and commercial venues. Witness the weather Web sites, weather radio stations and weather TV channels that provide entertainment value for a growing audience, and realize that forecasters have gained an odd celebrity status.
They have built careers around the weather, which they dramatically portray as one of the most forceful and ubiquitous expressions of the natural world, a phenomenon that surrounds our lives with myriad influences. Despite the grandiose power of human technology, weather impacts our lives on a daily basis and exerts a humbling influence over mankind.
In Aspen, we know that a healthy early season snowpack is essential to our economic success. When Thanksgiving Day features 3 feet of base on our ski mountains, we’re looking good for the all-important Christmas rush.
One of the best ski advertisements possible for us comes through national media reports of winter storm warnings in the Colorado Rockies. News shots of blizzards choking I-70 or closing Vail Pass are among the most convincing endorsements of good skiing that Aspen can get.
Hope springs eternal for ski buffs who study satellite photos the way football coaches study offensive formations. Wind speed and direction, isobars, cold fronts, high-pressure ridges, humidity, upper-level disturbances … these expressions make up the vocabulary of weather aficionados who observe patterns that have perplexed man throughout human history.
Cloud seeding, snowmaking and global warming are about the only control efforts man has devised to alter the weather, and their influences are either limited or hotly debated. Weather remains far beyond man’s control, just as an errant asteroid was beyond the control of the dinosaurs.
The best we can do about weather is dress for it, build shelters to protect us from it, and endlessly talk about it. There is perhaps no other natural occurrence that fluctuates between good and bad with the severity of the weather. It is among the most mercurial influences in our lives.
Does the weather ever really suit our moods, our temperaments, our desires? Just the opposite. The weather doesn’t care one lick for us. It follows unfathomable celestial pulses, oblivious to man and other creatures, all of whom must either adapt to it or die.
Weather is the great power, it is nature’s voice, whether spoken in a soft summer breeze or raged in a force five hurricane. Weather can caress or kill, conjure great beauty or horrible devastation. It can paint a sunset or erase lives. We are its subjects, and it is our lord and master.
So, whether you’re a farmer planting corn or a skier arcing through corn snow, weather paints your world. Observe it, feel its power, revel in its majesty, celebrate it and respect it, because weather is one of the few things in our lives that we can do little or nothing about.
Paul Andersen predicts that we will see snow today. His column runs every Monday.
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