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An Endless Storm

If only it would snow…

The storm starts in the Gulf of Alaska, everything about it in opposition to high pressure and nice weather. It’s unstable and grumpy, and almost out of spite it spins counterclockwise, the other way, as it sucks up moisture. With a mind of its own, it heads south, a staggering, angry thing. It pulls in cold air from the north, a volatile mix, like giving a bitter man a bottle of liquor.

At even the hint of a building low, the merest comma of clouds smudging the satellite, you start to get a buzz. It begins in your stomach, with a little tickle and a flipflop, something almost primordial that’s triggered when you know you’re in for heavy weather. Part of it comes from the promise of deep powder skiing, part of it from the remembrance of school’s canceled!, part of it from being out in the fury of wind and cold and stinging crystals, and part of it simply from witnessing the magic of a snowflake over and over and over again. (Never forget the words of Howard T. Evans Jr., the scientist emeritus at the U.S. Geological Survey: “Snowflakes are mysterious things.”)

The best is on the second or third day of the storm, when it’s been snowing as long as you can remember, but it still shows no sign of letting up. The trees are heavy and laden and caked with frosting, as if the largest wedding cake in the world exploded. The roads are a mess, and travel is discouraged. Everybody you meet is talking about it —“the worst storm in years”—and excited in that weird disaster sort of way. As for you, you’ve topped off your skiing tank with face shot after face shot and you’re beginning to think you’ll be able to ski deep powder for the rest of the winter. It’s gluttony, but you want more.

The end of a ski day. You’re warmed, showered, cozy, with something hot to drink in your hand. You look out the window into the unbelievable, unearthly purple of a stormy dusk, and still the fatties fall. Later, after dinner, or when the dogs go out, or at midnight when you crash, you check it again. All the way to the edge of the light, where gray turns to black, there’s still that motion, that wispy parade of flakes falling to the ground.

Do you ever wonder what it would be like if it started snowing and never stopped?

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 26.7, March 1998. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

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