Winter is here in the Pacific Northwest. It is cold. Harsh. The frozen prairie tundra; Pines and Firs covered in snow. The frigid temperatures. The mercury drops. Ice. Black ice. There are some of us that love the winters in North Idaho, and some of us that count down the days until Summer with the promise of Spring in the far-off distance.
Snow. It's an amazing thing. The occurrence of snow happens when water vapor in the air freezes. Snowflakes are made up by ice crystals that have formed around dirt particles in the air. And, more amazing than that: no two snowflakes are alike. True, they may have the same characteristics of others; but each one is individually awesome, due to the weather patterns and moisture levels they endure as they tumble and turn towards earth.
We all have different names for "snow", depending on our love, or lack of, for the white stuff. When I was younger, I rode the manna every Saturday. 10 buck lift tickets for a day on the mountain. I always had a ride to the Idaho/Montana border where Lookout Pass is located. When I was feeling a little richer, I would change it up and drive my 2 wheel drive Honda CRX to Schweitzer and pay the $30 fee. I taught friends how to snowboard. Heel side. Toe side. Less pressure. More pressure. Follow me on this line.
The mountain was my playground. Green Circle to Double Black. Trees. Groomed. Powder. Fresh. Duck the tape. It was all good. When I lived at home, my dad would have the jacuzzi on for me for when I would get home. Dump the gear, into the hot, bubbling water as snow swirled above in its downward decent while melting right before hitting my naked face.
The youth group that I belonged to would take winter breaks at Schweitzer Mountain; everyone piled in to a big cabin. There was a year that the cabin wasn't free, so we stayed at a local church in Whitefish, Montana and made our daily trek to Big Mountain. It was the same every year: the guys slept on the floor of the living room while the girls got the bedrooms. Three to four days and nights. First tracks. Last tracks. Mountain mornings. Night riding was the best: a sleeping slope. The groomers would be out, putting fresh corduroy down. We would ride and dodge the massive beasts while jumping and following friend's lines or "tag".
When I still lived at "home", my bedroom became a tech room; the smell of melted snowboard wax and incense mingled and tickled the senses: punk music spun religiously in the top of my stereo as i meticulously tuned our boards, while my girlfriend, now wife, would sit on my bed; talking and watching, keeping me company. Filing and filling. Adjusting bindings. Minute and precise. Once I got the specifications I was wanting, everything would be packed into the CRX. We would spend the evening together, drive her home. Pick her up early the next morning and drive to Sandpoint. Up the curvy mountainside, then park.
Shoes off to get my board pants on. Then, boots. Beanie. Pull the Dragon Opticals off my window mirror and clip the goggles together around my skull. Open the rear hatch and take out our freshly tuned boards. Reach for my shell jacket; it wasn't packed. I only had my Burton fleece on for protection against the elements. "What are you going to do?" Erin asks. "Freeze," I reply. "We can go back and get it if you want." she says, concerned. "Nope, I'll be fine," is my response as the snow drops heavily on us. Shivering, I lock the car doors and close the hatch. We walk to the ticket stand, dragging our boards behind us as the snow crunches underfoot.
"Two." The girl behind the glass slides the stickers as my cash is pulled from my hand. I grab a couple wickets, give one to Erin and I wrap mine through the keyring that is attached to the YKK zipper on my board pants, where a plethora of days' past passes proclaim our many adventures, lined in a rainbow of colors. Stick the adhesive together and toss the garbage into the trash can. The snow constantly drops, covering us. "Ready?" I ask. "Yeah."
As we make our way to the first run, I rotate by goggles and brush the snow from my face. Pushing down, my eyes adjust and focus through the polyurethane and my vision becomes clearer. As we approach the slope, we stop. Buckling in and ratcheting down our front feet and attach the leashes. Slide to the descent and drop in while my back foot finds purchase in the base of the rear binding. Ratchet and click. We meet at the chairlift and stand in line. The snowstorm is still dumping heavily. Run after run, cat tracks and chairlifts. The sun breaks through and the day turns warm. Thankfully, I only have my fleece.
Snowflakes are beautiful. Intricately designed. Created. Delicate. Unique. There is more sand on the earth than there is snow. There are more stars in the universe than there is sand. Isaiah 40:12 says "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?" God has a name for each of the stars in the heavens, as Psalm 147:4 says "He determines the number of the stars; He gives to all of them their names." The Creator holds the universe in the span of His hand. Psalm 19:1 says "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork." He created for His glory. He created each snowflake to be an incredible work of art; He made you, and me. Jeremiah 1:5a says: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you."
You are unique.
115 days until summer.