Reflections on a High-Country Winter

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The icesicles are dripping. The mud is squishing. The birds are chirping. And the grocery store is deserted. It’s May mud season in Fraser. YYYYAAAAAYYYY!!!!! The end of winter is wonderfully close. Don’t get me wrong, I truly enjoyed the heart of winter in Grand County but the lingering blizzards of the past three weeks…I can only be happy for the much-needed moisture they provide. But after my first winter in the Icebox of the Nation, at 8,550 feet, I think it’s time for some reflections and ramblings on the joys and pains of high-country winter.

Alex and Cece on closing day at Winter Park Ski Resort.

Alex and Cece on closing day at Winter Park Ski Resort.

Joy: Recreation

This was, hands down, my most active winter ever. In Denver or Fort Collins I never felt like going on a walk after a snowstorm…it’s not as pretty when the snow melts into dirty slush after a day. And, yes, we did grow up skiing and snowboarding but because of the expense of this hobby we neglected to go as much during our college years. But, living ten minutes from the ski resort certainly boosted our interest in this again. Virtually no gas cost and the season ski pass paid itself off in about 5 days of skiing.

Then, about halfway through the winter I was in Changes – one of Fraser’s thrift stores – and came across a BEAUTIFUL pair of cross-country skis and boots. There I was in the middle of the store, clicking into those babies and gliding (kind of) in place on the rug while the thrift store employee chuckled nervously and walked away. So, $65 for those, and it was worth every penny! I started cross-country skiing three or four days a week on my break from work, on my day off, on weekends, after work. This is a sport that gives your body the most amazing feeling. All that gliding is a work out and a stretch at the same time. And the rhythm of a cross-country ski is similar to the rhythm of a hike: I found my body getting into its groove while my mind went wandering off in all sorts of inspired directions, with pristine mountains watching over me the whole time. Also, I must take this moment to

On an afternoon cross-country ski on the Fraser River Trail, with views of the Continental Divide ahead.

On an afternoon cross-country ski on the Fraser River Trail, with views of the Continental Divide and Winter Park Ski Resort ahead.

mention the Fraser River Trail. This trail runs right in front of our house and gives us views of the Continental Divide, Winter Park Ski Resort, and Byer’s Peak. I’ve never loved a trail more than I love the Fraser River Trail, where I embarked on so many cross-country skis this winter!

The last bit of recreation I enjoyed was snowshoeing. We are about 45 minutes away from Rocky Mountain National Park and headed that direction a few times this winter to escape the zipping ski racers, tourists, noise, wobbling children and general chaos of the ski resort. A snowshoe journey up to Big Meadows offers easy solitude for a day. And, the snowshoes also came in handy for an extra-snowy walking commute to work once.

So, with this I learned that the best way to fight cabin fever is to NOT check the temperature, layer up, and get outside.

'White Trash Laundry Service.'

‘White Trash Laundry Service.’

Pain: The Great Floods

Right before Christmas it started to get really cold. In fact, I think the majority of January days were below zero. One morning, we put a load of laundry in and almost started getting ready to leave the house and go snowboarding. We heard a strange sound coming from the laundry corner, looked at each other, and then heard it: the great kitchen flood! Water came pouring out from behind and underneath the washing machine as we rushed to turn the thing off and get towels to levy the rising water. So, we didn’t go snowboarding that day but instead spent the day cleaning up water and using kitchen tongs to dig our clothes out of hot steaming pool in the washing machine. We then finished our laundry Africa style- by vigorously scrubbing the item of clothing against itself and then ringing it out- and then strung them up all over the house because the dryer vent wouldn’t reach its hook up anymore after we pulled the stackable washer/dryer out to clean up. Long story short: this happened two or three more times and we found out it was the drain pipe from the washing machine that was freezing. Then, adaptable as we are, we came up with a new strategy. The new strategy is something we call the White Trash Laundry Service. It goes a little something like this: stop the wash cycle when we hear it start to drain, pull the draining tube connected to the washing machine out of the draining pipe, empty the trash can, put the end of said tube into trash can, start the drain cycle, let it drain until the trash can is full, stop the drain cycle, waddle outside with the full trash can and dump it on a snow bank, repeat.

A beautiful sunrise as seen from our deck this winter.

A beautiful sunrise as seen from our deck this winter.

Joy: Stunning sunrises

Every weekday morning I get up at 5:45 and in winter it’s, obviously, still dark at this time. One of my greatest simple pleasures this winter was watching the sun come up over the Continental Divide. Many mornings I would be writing away at my desk, and catch a brilliant glimpse out the window. This particular window is in the back of the house, which is more underground than the front in our walk-out basement apartment. So, to get the best view I would go to the porch and take in the sunrise as I’ve never seen it before. I don’t know what it is here that makes the clouds look like flawless strokes on an oil painting: smooth and stretching and swooshing. And sometimes the colors of the sunrise set the mood for the day; a hot pink and orange sunrise is energetic and that glowing, pearly blue and purple sunrise is calm and reflective.

Joy: The recalibration of your inner thermometer

This one’s easy. One day in March it was 45 degrees. Before realizing it was 45 degrees I rolled down my car windows, peeled off my fleece to feel the sun on my bare arms, promptly drove to the coffee shop and ordered an iced coffee, and sat outside and drank my iced coffee. It felt like the warmest day ever. Then, I got back in the car and realized it was only 45 degrees.

Joy and Pain: Treacherous roads and walking commutes

Operator error + no AWD = getting stuck on small ice patches in the driveway...

Operator error + no AWD = getting stuck on small ice patches in the driveway…

I can’t tell you how overjoyed I am that I walk- only a short distance- to work every day…even when it’s negative 27 outside. I am pretty much the wimpiest driver ever and my car gets stuck on patches of ice that are barely wider than the tire. So with this car/driver combo it’s hard to say what’s caused by operator error and what’s caused by the vehicle. But once this winter I slid into a snow bank in our driveway (!!!) and hours later the plow guy came knockin’ on the door with an offer to tow me out. It was kind of embarrassing. Was it my fault or the car’s fault? We’ll never know. Point being, I would just rather not drive anywhere unless it’s daytime, there’s no traffic and no chance of wind, ice, moisture, or even intense sunlight. So, I walk. Yes, I have slipped on hidden ice patches and fallen on my butt in the middle of the road before. But this is less scary and expensive than crashing my entire car due to ice!! When I did need to travel further than walking distance this winter, Alex basically chauffeured me around and allowed me to feel like a spoiled baby princess for approximately 5 months. I’ll make it up to him somehow!

Well, I think this about covers it for now. Any bets on when I can wear my new Chacos and plant a garden outside?

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3 responses »

  1. Even though winter in Denver is no where near as severe as Fraser, the past 3 weeks have sealed the deal for me too. Happy to see spring rain showers in the forecast this week.
    Love you, Mom

  2. I was wondering if you were going to mention your endless suppy of houseguests and couldn’t decide if you would call it a “joy” or a “pain.” Since I was one of those frequent houseguests I’m hoping it was a joy!!! 🙂

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