Life in Our Mountain Town: Living through winter in Truckee | SierraSun.com
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Life in Our Mountain Town: Living through winter in Truckee

Katie Shaffer, Sierra Sun

Most years, I welcome the first snowfall of the season. When those first big flakes start to fall from the sky, I will often pause a moment to take it all in. Usually, the first snow is something that just plain fills me up.

This year however, with a cold, blustery weekend in late October producing several days of wind, rain and snow, I felt not quite ready.

I was really enjoying the fall. I had just taken a bike ride up the U.S. Forest Service road, and the next day I found myself pulling out our supply of gloves and boots and thinking about getting my studded snow tires put on. The leaves on our willows were just turning yellow.

I like the winters here. If I didn’t, I’m sure I wouldn’t live here.

But I do find myself reminding my children when we have six inches of snow sitting on our lawn on Oct. 29 that we do not live a normal experience compared to most other places in the country. Luckily, this year, that first layer of snow melted, and autumn returned for a short while.

Some years when snow falls in October, it turns hard and crusty and stays on the ground and then gets covered up by more snow so that you don’t see the actual dirt and grass again until the following spring. That definitive snowfall, which may have now fallen in this past week, truly marks the change of seasons in my book.

My children were born in Truckee, so to them, it’s just a fact of life that winter is trying to blow in at this time of year. Just as the word Spring applies mostly to a season that we can drive to in Grass Valley or Reno in April, their vocabulary regarding snow might be considered abnormal to the general population of America.

I’ve listened to them as they field phone calls from relatives back east during a snowstorm. I can only guess at the question on the incoming line. It probably goes something like this: “We’re watching the news and see you’re having a terrible storm.” My child will answer, “Well, we’re having a pretty good storm a pretty big storm, but it isn’t terrible. It’s great!”

Of course Tom Brokaw likes to report on the national news about so-called “blizzards” in the east every other year or so. Our family tends to view these news reports with a bit of a smug attitude.

We look out the window at weather far worse, far more often, but still we rarely claim that we are having an all-out blizzard. We might find ourselves describing the weather as “blizzard-like” when the snow is coming down hard and blowing sideways. I’ve maybe seen only a handful of true blizzards in the nearly 20 years I’ve lived here.

My husband, who has been out plowing snow in the middle of the night many, many times, might disagree with me. He has seen his share of zero-visibility, “what the heck are people doing out in the road at this hour?” kind of weather. But I think I will save snow removal stories for another column.

By Truckee terms, when a storm or a series of storms are so intense that the roads close down which in turn affects basic needs such as food and mail, then maybe you can call it a blizzard. When no mail can get into town, and when the grocery store shelves are depleted of such essentials as bread, milk, pasta, and beer, then we might be able to say we’ve had a blizzard. We might also just say we’ve had a really big storm.

I understand that entire states back east aren’t as well set up to handle snow like Truckee is, with our army of snowplows and blowers. However, I think the sensationalized and inflated national news reports reflect a society that is unable to deal with any kind of inconvenience or delay.

In Truckee, most of us are pretty well equipped to deal with the snow. And so that is what we do: we deal with it.

So as winter returns, I gladly receive it. It’s time to attend to a few details that will prepare my family and me for the eventuality of winter, which this year, looks to be arriving right on schedule.

Katie Shaffer has lived in Truckee since 1981.


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