This is almost enough to give a guy serious doubts about global warming. I’m the first to admit, with neither pride nor shame, that minus freakin’ 24 degrees — any scale you’d like to use — is too damn cold. It’s too cold to go skiing. It’s too cold to work outside. It’s too cold to walk the dog even though Zippy the Dog seems not to notice it at all and is perfectly content to bodysurf the fluffy powder and do his rather awkward version of snowdog angels.
It’s too cold for my car that moans and groans and squeaks because all its grease and more fluid lubricants have congealed into blocks of wax. Its ride has taken on the qualities of a vibrating Barcalounger as the round seven-eighths of the tires come up short when they rotate onto the flat spots. I’ve discovered a cord attached — I’m guessing — to a block heater I didn’t know it had and I’m pondering the unsustainability of plugging it in. Two things stop me. The first is my vow to never, ever live in a place where I have to plug my car in to ensure it starts later. I’d rather just set it afire, claim the insurance and move someplace warmer. The second is the wildly-spinning electric meter attached to the side of the house. Its platter has taken to resembling an old 78rpm record, rotating so fast it’s just a blur.
Which is almost impossible to understand given I feel as though I’m living inside a meat locker. Suitable lounging attire these days more closely resembles all the clothes I generally wear while skiing with the exception of a breathable shell ski jacket — I’m deep into down at the moment — goggles, which I’d probably wear if they were the right prescription to read the squiggles on the computer screen, and ski boots. I’m only wearing liners inside the house lest I stomp Zippy’s paws. The puny baseboard heaters are fighting a valiant but losing battle against the interior walls, that seem to radiate cold even more efficiently than the refrigerator’s coils, and the various, sundry draughts no amount of caulking and StopSeal are able to eliminate. Baby, it’s cold inside .
That this blessedly-uncharacteristic cold snap coincides with an onslaught of deadlines is a minor blessing for which I am grateful. Pride alone, even without the powerful, genetic influence of procrastination, would force me to go skiing were it not for the pile of work nagging me, the people awaiting that work and their incessant, harpielike inquiries as to whether I fully appreciate the definition of deadline. Deadline: (ded'l ? n') n 1. A time limit, as for the completion of newspaper copy or other work. 2. A strong suggestion of when unreasonable people expect to see results assuming, of course, nothing more interesting comes along to delay, defer or diminish the desire to meet same. 3. An annoyance to be ignored. Yeah, I understand… I just wonder if they understand.
I have a grudging admiration for the people I’ve seen coming down off the mountain the past few days on my infrequent and unwanted trips to the village. Theirs is a grim visage, a frozen deathmask part smile, part facelift gone bad. I’m certain they’ve had fun — though I’m willing to bet you don’t hear the spontaneous whoops and cries of joy up there you heard when we were ploughing our way through thigh-deep snow and balmy temperatures last week — but I’m equally certain they aren’t about to stop and tell me about it until they get someplace warm and order something even warmer to thaw the inner (wo)man. Theirs is triumph in the face of adversity.
Bill Mason, writing about wilderness canoe travel, described the fine line between what he called living outdoors — his euphemism for camping that more accurately captured the art and skill of journeys many weeks in duration — and adversity, which is to say, just getting by. Adversity in that arena consists of such things as spending time in a leaky tent, a clammy sleeping bag, eating unpalatable food and wondering why you ever thought embarking on such a trip seemed like a good idea in the first place.
Skiing at -24° falls squarely in the camp of adversity.
So does making snow. This would be a good time to acknowledge the insane contribution of the snowmakers. Theirs is a job Dante might have described in his sweeping travels through hell were it not for the fact it can’t be done in a hot climate. Short of letting yourself be frozen inside a block of ice, I can’t imagine a job much colder than snowmaking. It only takes place when the temperature is below freezing, it necessitates dragging clumsy machines around… often in the dark, it involves the unholy trinity of cold, water and compressed air and, sorry guys, it’s très unglamorous. No bombs to toss, no lives to save, no chairs to be swept off, no helpful directions to be given, no soothing words to deliver while you pick up the equipment someone’s left behind after an epic garage sale fall.
In fact, with all the machines and compressed air lines lying about, requiring detours and more care than many skiers are capable of, and piles of manmade snow exhibiting all the signs of sandpaper until they’ve been blended into the base, the fruit of snowmakers’ labours are often not celebrated by those most likely to gain from them. So here’s to you, snowmakers. I’d stand you all to a cold beer if it didn’t seem like such a cruel joke. What you do now, we who ski will appreciate come March and April.
So cold has it been that I’ve actually made a pilgrimage to Meadow Park Wreck Centre. I couldn’t find the 10 visit pass I bought a couple of years ago — nine visits left — so I paid good money for the chance to be in a place ironically too warm. It’s okay; I’m not complaining. Warm is good when muscles are cold and warm is what I came in for. Having tried to go for a run and, quite possibly, frostbit the insides of my lungs, finally understanding what my younger brother was going through during his asthmatic phase, I set aside my distaste for indoor recreation and spent some quality time on a treadmill. Is there anything in the world more pointless than running on a treadmill? It’s a rhetorical question.
But there’s hope. It’s getting warmer. That bright thing in the sky is becoming obscured by warm, friendly, familiar clouds. Personally, I miss variable visibility. And we’ve got to thank this cold snap for one thing. Minus 10 feels pretty great after minus 20. I can’t believe I said that.