Snow novice prepares for harsh winter |

Snow novice prepares for harsh winter

In my hometown of Chattanooga, Tenn., people prepare for snowfall like it’s the upcoming apocalypse.

If the local weatherman – Paul, who has a catchy ad campaign and a penguin puppet that announces school closings – utters the word “snow,” then all hell breaks loose.

Every news broadcast and newspaper has pictures of grocery store check out lines streaming down the isles and into the meat department – it’s a yearly news staple. Local businesses and schools shut down. People with fireplaces order cords of wood. Antifreeze sales rocket. Liquor stores can hardly accommodate the need and pet stores are hit with a flux of St. Bernard orders and kegger collars (okay … just joking with the dog thing.)

What’s really fun is that gas stations are packed with urgent drivers who, when and if the 2-inch snow comes, wouldn’t dare go on the slightly moist streets.

For me, in youth, snow was a reason not to do homework – not doing homework being one of my favorite pastimes. It was a chance to be reckless in front of the big kids, hurling myself onto steep hills while wearing a garbage bag, darting into abandoned streets. It was snowball fights and snow angels. It was enormous white slates etched with footprint messages.

In my teenage years, I was too cool to care.

My college years reflected something resembling satori, a philosophical reversion to the simpler thinking of a child laced with a little intellectual and eastern spiritual fortitude, and snow … well … served as an excuse to drink. It was its own celebration.

Then I got here to Truckee, and snow, as I’ve known it, almost disappeared.

For three months, folks have been telling me that I’ve not experienced winter before. Countless conversations have occurred in which I’m reminded that the snow can get 10, 20 or 30 feet deep. Simple salutations morph into the dangers of driving in Sierra Nevada winters. Anything that’s reasonably tall – street signs, boulders, porches – are all going to be covered in snow. If I mention the beautiful mountains, the response is frequently a monologue on the splendor of Truckee winters. Present tense conversations ultimately became future tense.

God forbid I should say it’s nippy outside.

Through the course of it all, I forgot that snow has to accumulate.

The first snow, a couple of weeks ago, was what I know. I built a fire and hung out in the living room, keeping close watch of its accumulation. I went outside, as often as possible, just to make footprints.

I was told numerous times that it was nothing compared to what it’s going to be, but it served as a great segue to the Truckee winters. For the first time since being here, winter wasn’t 10-, 20- or 30-feet snow drifts, it was just snow … and snow’s cool.

On the night of the second snow, a recent transfer from Gainesville, Fla., Mayumi Elegado, and I were hanging out, appreciating the snow in our naive kind of way. We took a walk in my Tahoe-Donner neighborhood, following tracks from garbage can shed to garbage can shed, marveling at once about the novelty of snow and bears.

We followed the tracks into the woods, when I got kind of creeped out and we decided to return to the house. When we got back, we found a couple of toboggans, and left again. We went from driveway to driveway and rode every remote hill.

We eventually started to stand while riding the sleds, gearing ourselves for the upcoming snowboarding season.

The outing inspired in me a presumably false sense of security. Really … if I can stand on a round plastic sled, I thought, I’ll be a master on something designed for standing – say… a snowboard. I guess we’ll see about that.

The next day I went to Donner Ski Ranch to shoot some photos and was knee deep in snow trying to find where the hot shots go. I marched all over the mountain and was surrounded by enthusiastic skiing and snowboarding people. It was my first time seeing it live and I was pretty taken aback. I got really caught up in shooting the photos, as both the sports and the landscape are esthetically pleasing and each shutter click recorded an ideal moment. Stupid me, I forgot to load the camera.

All these events prompted the recent (like four hours ago) purchase of a snow board and its accoutrements. I’ve been severely bitten by the winter obsession bug and have spent rent money in preparation for the season’s festivities. It’s more money than I’ve spent on anything (except a car) and I don’t even know how to ride. What’s that all about?

While I contend that all the winter hype cannot prepare some random Tennessean for what’s about to occur, I’m beginning to relate to the excitement that the season generates.

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