Autumn Phillips: Who’s complaining about Grand County’s winter?
In Grand County, you’re not allowed to complain about the winter.
If you do, people give you the “she’s not going to make it” sideways glance.
If you say, “It’s cold.”
Grand County people say, “This is a mild winter. I remember when …”
If you say, “I haven’t seen the sun for days.”
Grand County people say, “We need the moisture.”
If you say, “It’s below zero. Are you sure you want to go skiing?”
Grand County people say, “That’s why we live here.”
When I first moved to Grand County in August, the first cultural quirk of the place I noticed was this: Ask someone how long they’ve lived here, and they answer you in the number of winters.
I’ve lived in plenty of cold places ” Wyoming, Alaska, Maine ” but this is the first tundra where I heard people measure their lives in “winters.”
To be honest, I’ve had a pretty easy winter. I have a job indoors. I have covered parking and don’t have to scrape my windows every morning. I have a great pair of bump skis and am still (please Lord don’t punish me for saying this) injury-free more than halfway through the season.
But still, the other day I was driving home from work watching my breath flow over the steering wheel and I finally understood why people measure their time here by the months of cold they have survived.
As I waited for the heat to kick on, I thought to myself, “Why do people live here? You have to be a little crazy to struggle through months of sub-zero weather and think it’s normal. You have to be a bit crazy to take pride in the title, ‘Icebox of the Nation.'”
That was me around 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday night.
An hour later, I was at home putting on my Smartwool and Goretex layers.
When I set my “Goals for 2008,” I promised to be outside every full moon ” skiing, hiking, backpacking or just laying on a boulder next to a raging river.
On Tuesday, the moon was full and I was bound by the line I scribbled on a piece of notebook paper to get outside ” as was my companion.
We headed to Devil’s Thumb Ranch for some lighted night skiing. The air was so cold you could hear it forming into one giant ice block around the Fraser Valley, but once the skis got moving, my body started to warm up and I forgot.
There’s something amazing about skiing at night. The darkness adds a layer of adventure. The woods are quiet. Devil’s Thumb is far enough away from light pollution that you really get a chance to enjoy all the stars available to you at this altitude.
Several times, I just stopped and appreciated ” the trees, the solitude, the moon.
As we drove home, I stared out the window at the meadow and the mountains lit up blue from the full moon.
Grand County is so amazing, I thought to myself.
That was me at 9 p.m. Tuesday night.
It’s so beautiful. I can’t believe more people don’t live here, I mused.
I wonder why more people don’t live here.
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