Embrace the snow, fear the black ice
Winter’s heavy snowfalls are like the moment just prior to the first big drop on a roller coaster. The ride may be fun, but my nerves are a little on edge.For the most part, I like snow. I enjoy gazing at clean, white landscapes, making snow angels, catching flakes with my tongue and watching my dogs make paths through untouched layers of powder. I consider myself a skier, although I haven’t quite mastered it in the 14 years since I first learned to avoid serious bodily injury by snowplowing. I confidently use the word “dump” in casual conversation when discussing the amount of snowfall that has graced the valley thus far.However, there’s a part of me that fears snow. Mostly I become scared when I think about driving in icy road conditions. The reaction could be tied to my Indiana roots. Back home we have this ever-so-common, vehicle-destroying weather condition called black ice. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines black ice as “a thin, nearly invisible coating of ice that forms on paved surfaces.” I describe it as the devil’s sneaky way of making most of January and February not so fun in Indiana.In the Midwest, black ice is to winter as Pacer Ron Artest is to National Basketball League reprimands. The term “black ice” is so common that it is discussed at holiday parties, drawn out as clues in frantic games of Pictionary and warned of by most mothers and grandmothers from Chicago to Cincinnati before an impending drive. The mere mention of it on the 11 p.m. nightly news can cause a domino effect of school delays, community closings, and eventual mass hysteria in the rural areas that lack round-the-clock snow plowing.Although black ice is common in Colorado, it doesn’t seem to be such a feared and loathed condition in this valley as it is in my hometown (keep in mind this is only my second winter in the state). Maybe it’s because winters here aren’t plagued by rain that quickly freezes over like they do in Indiana. I’ve been told that the humidity is the reason winters are so much more tolerable in Colorado than in the Midwest. Correct me if I’m wrong, but less humidity makes the air less frigid – except maybe when it’s only 1 degree Fahrenheit. And with nearly 300 days of sunshine per year, Colorado’s bright skies beat out the cold, damp dreariness of the Midwest that resembles a scene from a Tim Burton film.Honestly, I am starting to come around to snow and all that it stands for in this valley. I have quickly learned that fresh powder can make a normal person with a snowboard or skis drool with excitement. Mention of it in weather forecasts sparks a reaction much like in cartoons of the past when a starving Tom would see Jerry as a walking roasted turkey leg instead of a mouse. I’m pretty stoked that Sunlight is opening with a bang Friday, even though the temperature this week is not quite what I have in mind for skiing. I can’t wait to experience the leg-burning that Big Burn induces at Snowmass. I feel confident that black ice will not ultimately cause the demise of my beloved Jeep Liberty and that its four-wheel-drive capabilities will safely accompany me wherever I drive.This year I’m ready for the snow, even if butterflies flutter in my stomach when I hear it’s going to dump. I might even close my eyes and raise both hands over my head – not, of course, while I’m driving or skiing.April E. Clark cried when she learned to ski on a hill in southern Indiana and considers skiing in Colorado a major personal athletic achievement. Reach her at email@example.com
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