February 18th, 2012
This winter in the Upper Valley has been a bust. My hat is off to the skiers who made the effort to find snow and make something of this dismal weather. Mostly, I am impressed by the number of Vermont based skiers currently racing on the World Cups, Youth Olympic Games and currently racing for the US at the Biathlon Junior World Championships. Congratulations, thanks and wishes for great races to you all.
The snow cover on the house trails resembles the sugary white glaze found drizzled over some brands of ginger snap cookies. Shiny, hard and useless. The drizzle might also be thicker than the current offerings of snow. The snow we do have is impressively durable forming a great base. Its held up fantastically well despite being an inch thick and subject to a lot of rain and sunshine.
A summertime hobby is flying sailplanes; un-powered airplanes. My interest in un-motorized aviation extends to following the Vermont hang gliding scene. A member of the Vermont Hang Glider Association Yahoo group put together a study of average temperatures for winters since 1950. The winters are broken up by month. What his study indicates in this snowless winter follows a 30 year cycle based upon his small sample size. He correlated the data against some ocean temps whose cycle overlay the air data pretty well. Makes sense. I’d like to believe this winter will not be the new norm and is part of the micro cycle of climatic variability and not the introductory phase of catastrophic climate change.
A few old timers around here recall a winter during the early 80s when it didn’t snow until Valentine’s Day. They also recall receiving a good bit of snow to end the winter. There are still six weeks of potential snow producing weather so I remain optimistic for the opportunity to groom out the new trails and go for a ski.
There have been a few positives due to the lack of snow.
The glaze does a fantastic job contrasting the saplings and other bits of vegetation I thought I had cleared from the trails.
The wet areas I was worried about held enough snow they shouldn’t be too much headache during a more normal snow year. I hope the insulative value of the snow and larger amounts of potential melt water don’t prove this wrong since I’m quite happy with the trails.
I haven’t had to shovel any roofs.
I can head to the woodpile in sneakers.
There are fewer chunks of snow to crush when walking around the house in socks.
Without roads to plow and get in their workdays, local road crews are cutting back trees from the side of the roads greatly improving visibility.
The iceboating has been pretty great.
With luck, exposure to more consistently cold temps will kill off a good portion of the ticks which winter over in the leaf litter and rely on the snow to stabilize the temperature.
The overall lack of shoveling has been wonderful. The downside is losing shovel fitness for landscaping season.
Watching the frost grow along stream banks has been fascinating. The trails have several small creeklets maybe 2 feet wide I can usually groom right over. Midwinter they are hidden. In many of these waterways, a rise of 6 inches will blow them over the banks. The frost has lifted the banks over a foot in some places. The crystal structures separating the soil particles are very pretty.
Some friends currently living in and area of snowless Minnesota came east to get a New England fix (they grew up here). Today we plan on walking the ski trails to show them off and return home to tap trees. The temperature cycle is perfect to start the sap running. Maybe sugaring season will be decent. At least collecting buckets will be easier without having to wallow through the snow.