Waiting for winter

First ski of the season

Now that we’re in the winter Nordic ski resort business, I’m routinely informed by almost everyone that I’m supposed to want lots and lots of snow.   Of all the difficult transitions that have been made over the past few months, this mindset shift may be one of the toughest for me.   

The rest of my family has always been deliriously happy whenever it starts to snow.  For them a massive snowfall meant they could quit skiing endless circles on the man-made snow of the “hamster wheel” at Elm Creek in the Twin Cities and instead, head out to some decent ski trails. Part of the reason I happily gave up everything to move up to the Gunflint Trail was so I didn’t have to listen to my family whine about the bad snow conditions anymore. 

I don’t share their passion for falling snow.  I’ll never be better than a mediocre skier. Unlike my other family members, my nerve endings haven’t all frozen off.  I actually notice that it gets cold out in the snow. Plus, in my many years of daily freeway commutes from the suburbs to the city schools where I taught, a big snowfall always meant only one thing to me—two or more hellish hours stuck in traffic trying to get to or from work.  The only time snow ever truly thrilled me in winter was when there was enough to cancel school. 

But now our winter livelihood is dependent on getting snow, preferably massive quantities of snow — mountains of white flakes, the more the better. Intellectually I accept this.  Emotionally … well, not so much. Every morning when I wake up and it hasn’t snowed 2 feet overnight, I’m secretly a bit relieved.  Then my rational part takes over and I start to worry that it will never, ever snow on the Gunflint again.

Bearskin has been deeply into snow preparations for weeks.  Tracks and implements were put back on the pisten bully, Grandpa A’s wooden signs were nailed up to mark the snowshoe trail, and new ski maps with freshly lettered “You are here” arrows have been placed at critical junctures on each trail.  The plow truck is ready, fireplace wood is stacked neatly outside cabins, and ski supplies have been inventoried and ordered.  We’re ready and waiting for snow. 

And wait we do.  It snows.  It melts. The lake freezes over.  It thaws.  A snowy picture of the Bearskin sign made the front page of Skinnyski.com one day.  By the time the picture was posted, the snow was gone.  Quinn skied a little down a trail during a miniblizzard one afternoon.  By the next morning all traces of snow on the path had melted.  The ice on East Bearskin Lake froze in large grainy patches several times during the past few weeks, only to melt again.  Finally on Friday the lake appeared to be a beautiful solid sheet of ice, with “waves” of snow granules blowing across it in fascinating patterns.  On Monday morning the lake looked liquid again, although rocks thrown into the water hit hidden ice with a solid thump.  Tuesday I noticed the grass outside the back lodge door had turned a bright, fresh green again – welcome to spring. (And after writing this, today that green grass is covered with an inch of newly fallen snow again. We’ll see how long this lasts…) 

Dire prognostications notwithstanding, the snow will come —  and one day soon it won’t melt.  The ice will freeze.  Happy skiers will glide down the groomed trails through the pines.  This is the Gunflint, after all.  We may not have snow yet, but we most certainly will have it. My family will return from skiing coated in icy flakes and exultant over the snow conditions.  I’m looking forward to having snow that will change my mind about snow.  

Waiting for winter photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bearskinlodge

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