Winter’s swan song

Winter is biding us a fond adieu. Too bad . . . it’s my favorite season. When I was a kid I would pull back the curtains every winter morning hoping to see snow. Growing up in Lubbock, once in a great while I was blessed, but not too often. The past three years have not been good snow years for us. However, this year we have a good old fashioned “normal” winter. We love to cross country ski so this year’s snow has come in handy. We have a 25 acre hay field just west of our house that we use for this purpose. Also’I’ve begun to cut paths through the rest of our property with a brush hog and that’s worked out wonderfully. Therefore, we now can ski pretty much all over our property’forested, sage brushed or what have “youed”. There are a lot of misconceptions about the snow situation in cool, colorful Colorado. Remember Lower Slobovia from the “Li’l Abner” comic strip’ Everyone was pictured walking around in armpit deep snow as if the snow were light and fluffy volcanic ash. Well, the snow here is light and fluffy (thus the “champagne powder” advertised) but, after it gets to be about a foot deep it’s not too easy to walk around in anymore. It also doesn’t stay at any depth for too long a time except on the north facing slopes. Have you ever watched a downhill ski race on television that was held at Aspen, Vail or Keystone’ When the camera panned way down in the valley where the houses are located, did you notice that there wasn’t much snow’ That’s because the houses are built on the south facing slopes. And that’s because the sun does quite the evaporation number on snow on the south facing slopes. The temperature can be bitter cold for days and still the south facing slopes will lose their snow. In the high mountain valleys (above 8,000′ elevation) the snow can stand three or four feet on the flats, but that’s all. Compaction, sun and wind never allow it to accumulate much more than that. Still if you’re snowmobiling and fall off your rig up around the 10,000′ elevation level, you may find yourself in a Lower Slobovia situation. It’s always best not to step off your machine to have a “look-see.” It can snow like crazy almost anywhere in the state, but most of the “big dumps” come in the spring. The month of March is the biggest snowfall month in Colorado with April and February not far behind. December is the coldest month followed by January and November. Verrrry “interestink’ – no’ Anyway, when I get a phone call I’m usually talking to whomever from out on our east porch. “Whomever” will always ask how cold it is and how much snow we have on the ground. It’s usually about 20, very sunny, no wind and we have about a foot of snow standing on the flats. “Whomever” will say aren’t you freezing to which I always reply no. Standing in the sun with no wind one doesn’t feel the cold. As a matter of fact no one up here wears a coat . . . unless you’re working outside. Just to run to town or to see a neighbor one just jumps in the car and goes. If it’s a longish trip I’ll usually toss a coat in the back seat just in case of an emergency. On a real trip, wandering about in the high mountains, I’ll throw in my sleeping bag, water, matches and granola bars should I find myself accidently playing Survivor. The mountain storms can be fierce but usually one who has lived in Colorado for awhile is not going to get caught in them. We watch the weather and just nest up ’til it’s over before traveling anywhere. The State of Colorado is great about maintaining their roads. The first flake of snow that meanders down gets jumped up and down on. It takes a doozy of a storm to get a jump on Colorado’s top notch road maintenance crews. When doozy storms do rear their wondrous heads, no one in their right mind would be driving in them in the first place. Anyway, winter is leaving and that’s a shame. One reason is that with the warming of the weather and the melting of the snow comes the deepening of the mud. Possibly you’ve heard of “Mud Season'” Well, we’re in it. We learned a little trick a few years back: When the mud begins to accumulate throw straw on top of it. You’d be surprised how much this helps the sloppiness of it all. Finally, by the time late spring comes and all is dry once more, the straw decomposes or blows away or both’whatever, it’s not in evidence for very long. Mickey Smith is a Texas refugee with former political ties to the Lone Star State. Contrary to popular belief he did not invent the internet but he and Dubya do both live on a ranch close to Crawford.

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