A Winter of Living Snowlessly
Even the Birkie was reduced to a party in 2017.
The Back page with Bruce Steinberg
December, oh December! – what glorious promise you brought! So much abundance of cold and snowfall in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin. Skiing opportunities were everywhere. We even made tracks up to and a bit beyond the December 21st winter solstice, but then we began to limp toward our white-slush Christmas.
Thereafter, snow and cold were under constant attack. Warmer temps and, worst of all, rain, persisted so that even when things froze again, the snow had morphed into an un-skiable, snowlike (but not snow) substance. Our son kept trying to rescue his snowman as it thinned and leaned one way and then another. He gave up by New Year’s Day, putting a bit of what remained – its “heart” – in a plastic bag to store in our freezer. He would wait to transplant it back into a new snowman when cold and snow came again.
He’s still waiting.
By the first week of January, even the piles of snow that plows had made along area roads in December had turned into small, crusty humps of black-gray, or otherwise were completely gone. And then, ‘til now (Feb. 10, 2017) the snow and cold have stayed gone. Just hints of a flake or two here and there, Mother Nature letting us know she could still provide if she wanted to, but apparently didn’t want to. All I got were five days on snow, all in December, all before winter. Right now my skis, waxed and ready, look wanting – needing – some action. But like the Cubs for 108 years, they’ll have to wait ‘til next year.
And what about the Cubs winning the World Series? If Hell was supposed to freeze over when that happened, then why the H-E-Double-Ski-Poles couldn’t Hell have had the decency to send some of that freezing-over to the team’s home town area?
At the same time, right now (Feb. 10th, that is), up to 18 inches blanket much of New York State. Now, with the Cubs winning it all, it is one thing for Satan to fail to send any of Hell’s freezing over to the Banana Belt, but isn’t it far, far too cruel and blasphemous for Satan to send all that snow out East? I can almost hear Satan’s laugh answering back: “It’s because the Cubs won it on the road. Moo-ha-ha!”
I have my ski areas of last resort when snow is sparse and the temperature highs flirt with the mid-thirties. These are lakes and ponds that, when they freeze, hold on to any snowflake and layer of frost even if the temps go a bit above freezing. But alas, the lakes never froze to a safe thickness, and even if they were frozen enough to safely support a skier, their surfaces had a top layer of slush. Yes, in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin, for the most part, the Banana Belt had whupped us good.
My February 10th research of trails well north of here, including the Birkie trail, show that conditions look good, even excellent for the big race. That’s good for the racers and the communities, not to mention this magazine, which usually dedicates much of its April issue to the Birkie race and results. But down here in the Banana Belt it’s been too hard to listen to so many non-skiing types who declare with smiles what a great winter this has been.
So, wait ‘til next year it is. When the cold will arrive and stay, and the snow will fall and stay, and my skis can stay out of the basement, and the Cubs will have won it all at Wrigley Field.
A Banana-Belter has a right to hope.
And a snowman needs its heart.