High Points: Time shift
Do you feel it?
They may call this the most wonderful time of the year, but it is also the darkest time of the year. I really noticed it earlier this week while skiing just after noon on Aspen Mountain. Though it was a bright sunny day, I was skiing, for the most part, in the dark as a low-slung sun ducked behind the peaks of the mountain. That is to say that, on these late days of December, the arc of the sun leaves more shadows than shine. Even with the cloudless sky.
No complaints. The snow is magnificent, and, on the ridge of Bell and the top of Ruthies, there is ample light to see the snow below your feet. But, once you drop below the highest points on the mountain, it is kind of like skiing into the darkness of a tunnel with no headlights. Better trade your sunglasses for goggles.
Ah, but fortunately, we have just turned a corner here in Northern Hemisphere, as the winter solstice came a couple of days ago, at 2:48 p.m. on Wednesday — officially making it wintertime. That means that, from now until the 21st of June (the summer solstice), we can look forward to a little more sunshine, just a few seconds, and a few fewer shadows each and every day. It may be imperceptible from one day to the next, but it all adds up.
Sitting here in Aspen, at about 39 degrees north of the equator, we will get 9 hours 24 minutes and 52 seconds of sunlight between rise and shine this morning and the setting of the sun this afternoon (Friday, Dec. 23) at 4:49 p.m. That may not be much, but it is nine whole seconds more daylight than we had yesterday. That will be followed by a long, cold night that will last for over 14 hours. Brrrr. This being Aspen, and it being Christmas weekend, the bet is that there will be plenty of people who see both Saturday’s sunset and Sunday’s sunrise on Christmas morn.
Some people are just night people. They rise late and spend their energy in the darkness. Others are morning people who relish the quiet of the pre-dawn hours when they can get things done without interruption. But, most of us are just daytime folks. That’s when we do our jobs and, if we are lucky enough, ski. For us folks, the day the winter solstice arrives is a good thing. That means that the northern hemisphere of the planet once again begins its tilt back towards the sun, making each day brighter than the one before. I know I welcome that change.
For thousands of years, the winter solstice has been a time for celebration, especially in Europe and northern climes where the short days see just a few hours of sun daily. People dig the sun. It’s no accident that Christmas is celebrated around this time of year, and there have been pagan rituals tied to the tilting of the earth since, well, since there were pagans. Pagan, by the way, was a derogatory term given to those who did not believe in the God of the day and celebrated things like the solstice more for the party than anything else. Sound a bit familiar?
Anyway, we will have more sunshine on Christmas Sunday than we had on Saturday, assuming the next storm does not move in, and that is is a gift. It won’t be long now before my favorite day of the year. That takes place in February when Aspen Skiing Co. makes the announcement that the lifts will begin to stay open until 4 p.m.
Seems like spring is right around the corner.