Winter is Here

[  by Aimee Eaton  ]

Winter is here. Winds whip off the peaks and across the valley. The cold air forces itself through layers of down and synthetics, rosying cheeks, causing locals and visitors alike to pull up hoods and walk a little faster. Ice coats the sidewalk near the Post Office regardless of the mitigation efforts made by town officials. The field at the Community School is dotted with “indestructable” snowballs, snowmen, snow dogs and dragons.

If we are lucky, the snow will keep falling, covering the mountains, filling yards, and reaching the top of the bird bath at Scout’s General on Elk Ave, a sure sign the extremes on Mt. Crested Butte are ready to be opened.

If we are lucky, the weather will cooperate and these are the snows that in the spring will fill our valley’s rivers. Today’s storm in five months will melt into the water that nourishes the seeds and propels the summer’s eruption of wildflowers across our hillsides. If we are fortunate, these are the days that support hero dirt and five hundred miles of careening single track. It is now in winter’s dark, cold embrace that we must cross our fingers, say our prayers, and hope that luck is on our side.

Many of our community’s residents will say they came to town for the winter then stayed for the summer. In their next breath they will say you don’t really live here until you’ve been through a few winters. There is truth in both statements, but neither allows for the beauty and joy that is a February dumping of blower, town league hockey played late on a Wednesday night, one-and-a-half miles of perfect corduroy stretching straight into Paradise.

There will be those who talk about winter as if it is something to be endured. Waited out. Suffered through. They may not remember the sledding hill over by Big Mine Ice Rink where on Christmas, when my boys were one and three, they learned about momentum and the thrill of being on the edge of control. The naysayers may not yet know of the choke at the bottom of Cesspool that reminds me to look at the opportunities not the obstacles, a lesson as important in life as it is on skis. Do not waste your time in conversations with these killjoys. Instead, grab your mittens, go out and breathe in deep—feel your nose hair freeze. The frozen world is waiting for you, waiting for all of us.

Snow is fun. When I put on my layers and outerwear, three decades disappear and I am a superhero ready to spin and flip and fly. The fountain of youth for the price of a ski pass.

I’ve chased snow every month of the year. Skied on volcanoes and in backyards, traveled far and wide in pursuit of turns. I fell in love on a hut trip and planned a life on a wintery summit, but there was a time I thought I could leave the cold behind. Become a person of waves and salt. Eat mangoes and ceviche. Worship the gods of a warmer climate. I was wrong. Those things are not for me, and I do not want them.

What I want are storms that never stop. Snow that falls from the sky and covers the world in a blanket so thick sounds become muffled. I want trees covered in white, rivers frozen over, boots by the door, gloves drying above the fire.

With all that being said, this is not always an easy place to spend the winter. Car batteries will succumb to the cold, skin will be frostbitten.

In this place where few of us have family, it is our friends who hold our hearts, and it is in the darker months that we need them most.

We’re here together in this little mountain town at the end of the road and it’s freezing outside, let’s make the most of it.

Let it snow.