Winter Joy

By Aimee Eaton  ]

The storm comes in the evening. As the sky turns dark, the wind blows six-sided flakes into the window and door jams. Under the porchlight the snow swirls and spins blocking all signs of life past the end of the stairs. 

In the morning the website for the resort’s powcam will fail to load prompting workers to call in sick, businesses to flip their signs to closed. The school, however, will stay open. A grownups’ only snow day. 

When I was very small, I would sit and watch the snowfall, a tiny chair pulled up to the door, my breath fogging the glass. More than Santa, Rudolph or Frosty combined it was the snow that brought winter’s magic. The first storm of the season, just as captivating as April’s last effort. My parents wondered at my draw toward the cold. Asking if I’d like a sweater, another pair of mittens, maybe a trip to California. Disneyland and the beach. I didn’t. I wanted skis, and it wasn’t long before I had them. A gateway to winter’s frozen realm. 

When we’re young our passions are easily dismissed by those around us. There’s a feeling that a child will grow out of her obsessions. Society looks at little Sophie at 5, shrugs and says, “Oh, isn’t she cute carrying around her poles and wearing her boots to bed.” However, when little Sophie at 45 is still dressing up in her snow clothes to slide down mountains and sail off cliffs like Wonder Woman with wings, the world shakes its collective head. As if these pursuits should be reserved only for children and the occasional professional athlete. To that I ask, are we really okay with this?

If rather than squashing down the magic of learning something new, we embraced the unknown, reveled in delight, took one more lap before grabbing a hot chocolate and calling it a day? I think so. Maybe, if you’re here in this little mountain town at the end of the road, you think so too. And if you do, then the question becomes: how do we continue to foster maximum enthusiasm for winter, even as our bones creak with cold and the driveway needs to be shoveled?

Look, for me, what it comes down to is this. Each day we wake up in the morning and we have a choice. We can choose stoke, or we can choose something else. Shopping maybe, or the dishes. Choose stoke. Tug on the boots, the Gore-Tex supersuit, pull the goggles down, the buff up and get out there. 

This valley has more winter opportunity within walking distance than many countries. Ski, snowboard, Nordic, snowshoe, sled. If it happens when it’s cold out, we’ve probably got it, and more often than not the getting is good. The dishes will wait. So will the driveway. That sound you hear while pushing skinny skis along the Slate is winter’s muffled song. Isn’t it beautiful.

I have three small children now. Each storm finds them faces pressed to the windows, breath fogging the glass. I like to believe they can sense the storm’s magic. I like to believe that like me, they will always be skiers, that winter will become part of them. Because here’s the other thing about winter: It’s changing. Our climate is no longer the stable, fixed system of centuries past. It’s going to take work from all of us to make sure the snow still falls, and we work hardest when what we love the most is on the line. 

Love winter. 

When Aimee Eaton isn’t making pizzas and french fries with her husband and three young children, she’s writing about the connection between people and the environment, running Crested Butte’s newest microbakery, and celebrating all this little pocket of the world has to offer.