Winters in Context
The weather app told us snow. The red exclamation mark, the warning indicator for a winter storm on that Sunday. We needed any snow, but we wanted the kind that shut everyone up for a few days, enough to call off the hockey game. It takes a sizeable snowfall to cancel events here. We watched the news the night before, hoping for more snow than the weather app predicted.
Footage of the snow plow folks rolled on the screen as the meteorologist talked about possible amounts. Reels showed large trucks boasting plows on their fronts and loads of salt in their backs, moving in a tapered line of three climbing long curves of mountain roads.
A reporter interviewed some locals who came on down the mountain to outrun the storm. “We need the snow,” a young man said, “otherwise, everything will be dry in the spring.” A Colorado Department of Transportation representative was next. “We’re excited for this snow. We’re ready for it,” she said.
Snow came. Sure enough. Perhaps three inches by daybreak, and it continued to come down. Still, we left for the hockey game around 8:00 a.m. Slow and steady on the roads, the landscape all around us losing color and becoming a grainy black and white moving picture. By the time we returned home, 5-6 inches made a fluffy blanket over our neighborhood.
We talked about how strange it was to watch a newscast about an approaching winter storm and hear talk of excitement, and eagerness even, for the snow. Natives of Kentucky, we know a threat of 4-8 inches of snow means treacherous roads, school and business closings, and a surge of customers plundering the bread and milk aisles at all grocery stores. In this arid, high desert climate of Colorado, a dump of snow means needed moisture, a boost to winter sport economies in the mountains, and only a slowing of road travel as residents don’t stop for snow, at least not for long.
It appears that the context matters. When we post photos of our winters, friends and family back east tell us we can keep that white stuff out here. No matter how often we explain that it’s not the same, that it’s drier here, that the roads are clear within sometimes only hours, it doesn’t change any minds. The sentiment is the same: winter and snow are really gross, winter and snow I hate the most. Having lived here for five years, my understanding about and appreciation for winter has changed.
Yesterday and today, pictures of snow and ice shared by Kentucky people showed up in my social media feeds. On Kentucky time early in the morning or late the night before, adults and children waited to get an alert that school had been canceled. In my school days, we most often waited for our school closings to be read on WHAS radio. I remember it well—the snow, what it left in its wake, the anticipation and relief of a snow day.
The afternoon sun coming through my office window lays its beam across my dog. It’s 60 degrees here today. We love the warmth, and we are fond of the clear blue skies. Grey days are rare, and that is another contrast to our learned Kentucky experience.
The weather app displays a cloud dropping snow on the Saturday block. A more detailed graphic on another screen reads, Chance of precipitation: 50%. We need the snow.
It doesn’t do for me to apply my Kentucky snow knowledge to my current geography. It isn't useful to try and give my Colorado winter weather point of view to Kentucky or her people. Four states away, a different climate and topography. I live in another context now, and it has taught me something I didn’t know.