Snow is definitely a 4-letter word for many Pennsylvanians of my acquaintance. An upcoming snow event creates great angst among my friends, who see no value or joy in the white stuff.
Though I don’t brag about it, I have a secret. I like snow.
As a landscape photographer, snow is for me generally a welcome addition to the dreary brown landscape of the northeastern United States in November and December. Also as a skier, my affection for the white stuff is obvious. I like to move snow around with my power equipment. I even have a snowmobile.
Still, in polite company around here, it is best not to sound too enthusiastic when storms bear down. After all, most of our locals, particularly of my age, dream of having a winter condo in Florida.
I live most of the year in a TV and radio market that includes the Poconos, and thus multiple ski resorts. Despite this, our meteorologists tend to report an upcoming snowfall with disparaging tones. I note the difference immediately for instance, when in the Adirondacks. There, the prospect of snow is reported if not with glee, at least with no sense of dread. This would seem sensible in an area where a fair number of people count on winter weather for their incomes. It has always irked me to see the cheery way our forecasters announce that the latest storm will pass too far north for us to get anything frozen, and what a relief it is.
It’s winter for heavens sake!
Now I know there are Pennsylvanians who embrace winter weather. I see them out at our state parks after a snowfall unloading their cross-country skis or snowshoes from the back of their Subaru Outbacks and Foresters. They’re just relatively rare compared to the people still at home, who pine for their golf clubs and/ or their powerboats..
I find that also ironic, but compared to my youth, road maintenance is better, our transportation is infinitely better (all-wheel drive, , antilock brakes, traction control etc…) yet we seem much less stoic about snowstorms than we used to be. I also don’t understand the rush on bread and milk. Beer, wine, fondue and chili fixings make much more sense to me.
This year snow in the Northeast has been very late in coming. It was sparse in Lake Placid, when I arrived there several weeks ago for a visit. In fact for the first January trip in my experience, there was no cross country skiing for the first several days of my vacation (in fact I arrived in town as a thunderstorm came through). Happily I understand that the North Country has whitened up nicely since.
Winter in my part of Pennsylvania has been brown and relatively warm, delighting many but depressing me. Meaningful snow finally arrived overnight starting on 22 January in the form of the so-called winter storm “Jonas” as named by The Weather Channel. I dislike this affectation, which seems to be a blatant attempt to hype snowstorms into quasi-hurricane status. This frightens people sufficiently so that televisions everywhere are set to TWC for the duration of the event.
The storm was somewhat unusual, in the steep gradient of precipitation at its northern edge. Towns as close as 20 miles apart might have a 2 foot difference in snow accumulation. Parts of the Laurel Mountains in Southeast Pennsylvania received up to 35 inches of snow from the same storm.
In my area, on ridge tops just west of the Pocono plateau, we received between 9 and 10 inches of snow over bare ground. This was fairly light and fluffy and with no frozen base below, not optimal for recreation. 24 hours later however, the snow was starting to consolidate and things got a bit better. I was able to ski quite nicely at a local state Park on a section of former farm fields which feature a network of wide grassy trails. Such terrain is more forgiving of suboptimal conditions, than the rocky forest paths that are more common here.
I find myself wishing that this is the beginning of an extended period of snow cover. For the sake of my winter adverse friends, it will optimally happen in a number of small events rather than as crippling nor’easters. For me, it is particularly pleasant to ski or snowshoe in the softer temperatures of late February and March, particularly after work, as sunsets begin to occur later in the evening.
Finally, perhaps in mid- March comes a moment when a good day of cross-country skiing can still occur up in the mountains, while in the valley floor 1400 feet below, golfers enjoy the greening scenery and spring air for their first rounds of the season.
You need a good snowpack for that to occur.
I remain quietly (and covertly) hopeful.