Cold Realities

Winter from a non-skier's perspective

By Molly Priddy

Last week, I got up before my alarm to let my three dogs out in the yard.

Normally, their mission is simple: relieve their bladders and then get back in the house to grab some more shuteye before the day really starts. They have their own side objectives of course — Did a cat walk through the yard? Is that a squirrel? — that leave me shivering on the back porch, hoping I don’t have to brave the dew just to get them back in the house.

But when I went to the door last Tuesday, all three dogs were lined up and ready to run back in. Looking out at the October snow covering the ground and their dancing paws, I knew why.

The coldest season of the year seems to be upon us, teasing with snowstorms and chilly temperatures, enough to convince you that fall is going as winter for Halloween this year.

I wrote about the impending winter in last week’s Beacon, and how forecasters are predicting a normal year for precipitation in the Flathead. What’s exciting for the snow-inclined is that last year’s 41 inches of snow was below average; if we’re expecting normal or above normal levels, we’re talking 55.8 inches at the least.

While none of this is set in stone because nature ultimately does what it wants, the low-grade La Niña weather pattern has skiers and snowboarders stoked on the predictions of 120 percent of normal snow levels at Whitefish Mountain Resort. This includes pretty much everyone in the Beacon office, all skiers or boarders or whatever else they do on ski hills.

From November through March, nearly all conversations in the office involve or center on skiing — what the snow’s like, how much we’re supposed to get tomorrow so, boss, we’re coming in a bit late to get some runs in, someone biffing it on the hill, someone performing heroically on the hill, the shenanigans achieved during après ski, and more.

A skier or snowboarder I am not, despite growing up in Missoula. My folks had five kids, so taking us to the ski hill was a financial and logistical nightmare. We went a few times, but the downhill aspect stressed me out too much. I don’t think it’s fun; it’s something to be endured until I’m on flat land again.

That means winter, for me, is videogame season.

Or used to be, until I made myself get over the desire to stay warm and dry and instead explore the various outdoor winter activities that don’t require gravity as a main player. I found I really enjoy cross-country skiing, and learning how to drive a dog sled blew my mind. Snowshoeing in a largely empty Glacier National Park is almost spiritual in its beauty and clarity, and even ice fishing can be fun with the right crowd. Don’t even get me started on building snowpeople (don’t get too attached, they leave us all eventually).

I’ve even ventured to the ski hill, not to shoot the runs, but to ride the chairlift to the summit as a foot passenger and take in the scenery, or, if the valley is dark under an inversion, to lift myself above the clouds and into the sunshine.

So while I felt for my dogs and their abrupt introduction to the snowy season, I saw myself in them, and in the advice I muttered as I followed them back inside the house: Can’t run from it, so might as well make the best of it.

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