It’s snowing in the midwest right now. A lot. This is the biggest story on the news, and rightfully so. There are so many challenges that come with a snowstorm, yet some of my best memories have been created during and after a storm.
Let’s start with some the GOOD memories associated with snowstorms. First, I’m sure that as a kid (and for those who are teachers) we all loved a snow day. Nothing like waking up to a perfect blanket of snow, school canceled and spending the whole day enjoying the weather. How many of us built snow forts, had snow ball fights, decorated snowmen, ate a bit fresh (white) snow or licked a cold pole? I did it – just once. We had a metal swingset in the backyard and I thought I should try it at least once. I was probably around 10 years old. I believe it’s a right of passage for Canadians. The kids where I teach love it when it snows! They make snow angels in 1 cm of snow. I love how excited kids are when there is snow on the ground. And there is so much to do in the snow – it’s easy to stay physically active. How many of you take part in cross country or downhill skiing, snowshoeing, skating, hockey?
As an adult, my best memories of snowstorms are from my time in Switzerland. There was nothing better than being the first person on the slopes after a snowstorm. Even better when the pistes haven’t been fully groomed yet. Or just going on the edge of the piste in the soft, fluffy snow. I get chills just thinking about it again. It was really amazing to have the chance to become a better skier. Spending two winters skiing with ski instructors has its privileges. We often ventured off piste, we knew those mountains so well, and for the most part, stayed in the safer areas.
One of the bad snowstorm stories for me occurred the day after a big storm in Switzerland. The snow was still falling and wind still blowing, so the pistes hadn’t really settled yet. I was out skiing with two friends of mine, one newer instructor and the other who had a great deal of experience. The avalanche danger was high, the orange light was flashing at the top of the ski lift. We headed over to a part of the hill that was closed off due to the snow (usually an area that had open pistes) and realized our error. We knew that if we were to go the other way, down the other side, we would end up back down near the lift. When we got to the edge, the snow was cornice shaped. As I found out later, this is a dangerous sign. We made the decision to go down, over the cornices. As we slowly edged on the slope, we made our way through the trees to get to the open slope. As we slowly skied across, we heard a WHUMP sound and the slope seemed to drop below us. We were scared! Nothing happened … but my heart was already beating quickly. I was not nearly as experienced as my two companions in the powder. It was too late to turn back, so we continued down. When we got to the open slope, we didn’t have that far to go to get to the bottom. They started off making nice, beautiful figure-eight turns. I followed behind them and had my rhythm going for a while, but then lost control and fell face first. I wasn’t hurt – there was so much snow – but I had a hard time getting up because it was so deep. My companions were yelling at me to get up as they were worried that we had triggered an avalanche. I got up, shaking, and made it the rest of the way down. We were VERY LUCKY that day. We made some critical errors in our decision to go off piste and took too many risks. Needless to say, the 3 of us didn’t end up skiing together after that.
The downright ugly snowstorm memories for me are two very big ones that impacted Toronto and all of Southern Ontario. First, the ice storm of 1998. How many of you remember that? The impact of the storm hit 57 communities in Ontario and 200 in Quebec. It was such a natural disaster that they made a movie about it. Where we you when the storm hit? I was still living in Hamilton, studying at McMaster. I remember that the roads were absolutely treacherous. And I remember feeling helpless when I heard about the number of people who were without heat, electricity, food and water across Ontario and Quebec.
The next is the famous storm in January 1999, less than one year later, when Mayor Mel Lastman called in the Army to help clear up the snow in Toronto. This “wimpy” storm as it was called will always be what Lastman is remember for. The old joke about calling in the Army to clear up never gets old.
I wonder if this storm will make the books and been remembered by this generation? It is an enormous storm, crossing almost all of the mid-atlantic states. The roads are closed, cities completely shut down, feet and feet of snow has fallen. I don’t think that I will forget about this storm, even though it has not directly affected us.
What is your best or worst snowstorm memory?
Next blog post will be from San Francisco!