Sean Beckwith: Bowing at the altar of weather
I’ve never monitored the weather in my life — until I moved to Aspen. Prior to moving to the mountains, I approached the weather on a day-to-day basis, if that. Even writing about weather right now makes me angry because it feels like a third-grade assignment. I don’t care if a cloud is a stratus or cumulus or cirrus. I literally just Googled “kinds of clouds” to write that last sentence. (I initially went with phosphorus cloud, but that isn’t a type of cloud.)
Basically what I’m trying to say is my interest in weather was on par with my interest in that show “How Things Are Made,” a.k.a. the show where they show how random household objects are manufactured. If I ever felt like I needed to know how duct tape is made, I’d reevaluate my life. That’s how I felt about weather conversations.
“My god, if you tell me the humidity percentage one more time I’m going to make it rain nickels. Do you know how it feels to get hit in the face with a handful of nickels? I don’t either, but I would take that over the debate whether you should wear a T-shirt or a turtleneck.”
Now that I live in a place where weather can turn a normal day into something euphoric, I’m Jim f—ing Flowers (or whoever your local weatherman was). I watch the radar and pay attention to the seven-, 10- and 15-day forecasts. Not only do I keep an eye on the Weather Channel app on my phone, but I cross reference its predictions with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website, noaa.gov. The Weather app is more optimistic than NOAA, and I definitely hold something against NOAA for trying to be “accurate.”
Weather watching is a disease, and I feel like a junkie.
“More snow, please. I need some of that Colorado pure white. You know the fluffy stuff that makes you feel like you’re floating on air. Come on, man, just a taste.”
And when I’m promised snow and it doesn’t come, the reaction is not pretty.
“What? Is that all? This is going to be gone in three hours. Why don’t you give me a bottle of booze and a gun so I can blow my brains out. I puked in a trash barrel on the way over here.”
You can argue that no matter what, you can’t promise snow, but I’d rather the forecast lie to me and be pleasantly surprised than put dreams of knee-deep, steep tree runs in my mind before bed.
There are many things worse than waking up, opening the blinds and seeing a paltry few inches outside, but for the sake of this column, there is nothing worse than powder day expectations unmet.
Another terrible aspect of weather watching is the reports you get from everyone with a cellphone. Remember the game Telephone that you played in elementary school where someone would whisper a sentence to you then you would relay it to the next person and by the time it got to the last person, it was completely different from the original? That’s how I feel whenever someone tells me what they read online or heard from Bigfoot or saw in a dream or whatever.
I’m at the point where I’m the 8-year-old who changed the sentence from “My dog likes peanut butter and walks” to “My ferret hates jelly and show tunes.”
The only weather predictions I relay are false.
“I ran into my shaman and he said, ‘The wind that tickles your chin means snow as high as your shin.’”
I’m addicted, though. As soon as those lifts start spinning, I’m tracking weather systems and giving merit to the Farmer’s Almanac. It’s not FOMO, because FOMO and YOLO are terrible acronyms and should be jettisoned from the English language.
It’s more like crippling despair that’s only alleviated with piles upon mounds upon heaps of snow that you can’t force or buy with money or plan on. That feeling of anticipation as a blizzard envelopes Aspen, almost blocking off sight to parking lot lights and snowcats deserves its own word. Precipipation? Icicle-cell a-mania? I don’t know much, but I do know there’s no feeling like going to sleep with powder dreams.
As much as I feel like a retiree somewhere in Florida discussing weather like it’s an alien discovery or proof that the Loch Ness Monster exists, this is life for a lot of locals. Being a slave to the weather and weather forecast is awful, but the payoff? The payoff is as buttery as Back of Bell turns after a snowstorm.
Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the last 35 years I’ve been covering what we call the “salmon wars” in the Pacific Northwest, writing so many stories about salmon heading toward extinction that I’ve lost count.
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