In the days immediately following late February’s American Birkebeiner, I was worried my skiing days would be done for the year.
The timing of the race seemed perfect: Temperatures a bit below freezing, cold overnight lows, and a bonus snowstorm in the days leading up to the race helped keep plenty of snowcover on the trails between Cable and Hayward.
By the Monday following the race, temperatures had increased to daytime highs in the 40s and the late-winter sun was inching higher in the sky and taking a toll on south-facing hills and any stretches of trail exposed to the sun in the Eau Claire area.
At that point, I wasn’t quite ready to give up skiing for the year, but it didn’t look like I was going to have much choice. I had an arbitrary mileage goal I wanted to hit for the year, so I continued to get out as often as I could in the mornings, doing my best to avoid whatever had iced up after melting the day before. Then, one day after work, I headed to Lowes Creek County Park south of Eau Claire for what I figured would be my final ski of the season. The snow was soft and thinning and the one-way-only downhill connecting the two sides of the park was so slushy I could imagine just how treacherous it would be in the morning after freezing into a jagged sheet of ice overnight.
That was it, I figured, my ski season was over.
But March had other plans.
After a week or so of debating whether it was really time to put away the skis for the year, a snowstorm bought me a little more time. This, however, was short-lived. By this time, much of the base was melted, so the trails didn’t have a nice layer of ice cooling them from below, and the sun was inching farther north in the sky every day. Even the cold — and it was cold — was unable to stop the snow from disappearing.
It’s about this time of year folks really start to get ready for spring and begin voicing their displeasure at the continuing winter. “It’s been a long winter,” gets said a lot.
Anna and I were talking about this at home one night.
“I like winter,” I responded.
“No one likes it when you say things like that,” I was told.
Winter, it seems, had gotten on nearly everyone’s nerves.
Still, it continued into April.
By this time, trail conditions had deteriorated to the point that I had put the skis into storage, despite daytime highs and nighttime lows falling sometimes 20 degrees below normal. When an early-April snowstorm offered the opportunity of a couple more skis, I got excited. Checking my phone’s weather app at 4:30 in the morning changed that. Two degrees makes me consider my options (ski or go back to bed) in the middle of winter. Three weeks into spring, 2 degrees didn’t give me any options. I shut my phone off and went back to sleep.
Even I had had enough.
It still doesn’t feel quite like spring, but averages keep creeping up, so it shouldn’t be long before the weather makes a turn for the better.
For now, I just hope we’re not trading April snow for December snow. At that point, snow will be a more welcome sight. By then, excitement for winter will have returned.
Nate Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.