Tom Clyde: Still waiting for winter
March 20, 2015
I got home from skiing the other day and took a look around my yard. Something was wrong, and that something was that I needed to mow the lawn. In March. There should be about three feet of snow in my yard. This is usually when I have to widen the road out so the propane truck can get in. The grass is green and growing on the south side of the house, but mostly the leaves from last fall, that were supposed to be composting under that blanket of snow, are all still there. I was going to run over them with the mower and at least chew them up in their desiccated state.
In the end, I did what I normally do when it comes to mowing the lawn and ignored it. Getting to the mower would have required inverting the barn from the winter to summer setup, dragging the patio furniture out, and shuffling a lot of other stuff. All of that is just wrong in March. Or April.
The season has turned. The Canada geese are honking up a storm every morning. They set up such a racket that they might as well be under the bed. The dogs get very excited and have to run and bark at every window just in case there is a goose trying to break in and steal the M&Ms off the kitchen counter. The sandhill cranes are back. They showed up on the 15th, two weeks earlier than normal at my house. The redwing blackbirds were also a week or so early. The ducks never left this winter.
I’m feeling a bit derelict because there is a fair amount of work on the ranch that I could be doing. Instead, I’ve been riding my bike when it isn’t too windy. I took the dogs on a walk up one of the farm roads that I should be skiing on this time of year. There were a couple of muddy spots, and one small drift. The dogs jumped in the river to cool off. More responsible farmers are out dragging their fields to break down the gopher mounds, of which there are more than I can ever recall. I should be getting the ditches cleaned and ready to go, just in case I can nab a week’s worth of irrigation water in June before the river dries up.
Of course the smart money is betting that winter will arrive about the first of May and stay with us until the Fourth of July. You don’t have to have lived here very long to know how that works. It might be 70 degrees in March, but there will still be a killing frost the first week in June, so there’s no point in turning the irrigation on and getting the hay all excited just in time for a Memorial Day blizzard.
For a while, Home Depot had both snow blowers and lawn mowers out for sale. I think they finally packed up all the snow blowers and shipped them to stores in Boston where they might be of some use. I’ve plowed my place out a total of three times this winter. I haven’t pulled the blower off the tractor yet, but if this keeps up, I will so I can get started on the field work in air-conditioned comfort. That $800 I spent on snow tires doesn’t seem like such a good idea any more. They’ve barely been damp.
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It’s hard to find reliable comparisons to other years. I’ve heard people say this is the worst winter since 1976. That was a terrible one. There was almost no snowmaking at the resorts, so the ski season never really happened. The financial fallout around town was crushing. This year, I don’t know that we’ve had any more snow than in 1976, at least the kind that comes out of the clouds. The mechanical snowmaking got things open on schedule, and the runs that have snowmaking on them have stayed good all season. Visitors I talk to on the lift are having fun, and while they miss the fabled Utah powder, they aren’t missing the cold.
In this odd winter, we have less snow but more skiers. The mountain and town have felt substantially busier all season long. The City reported that sales tax collections are way up. It’s purely anecdotal, but people I’ve talked to say business is strong, except in Kamas where the lack of snowmobile traffic is just painful. People skiing here on an Epic Pass they were going to buy anyway to ski Afton Alps in Minneapolis feel like they are skiing "free" here, and seem to be spending more off the mountain.
Maybe skiing isn’t as weather dependent as we all thought.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.