On October 21, 2020

Snowliage delights

By Merisa Sherman

It starts the night before, as people start noticing the slight changes in the weather. Perhaps someone close to them has mentioned the forecast they have been following. You watch as your neighbor reaches for an old canvas to cover their most precious plants. Arriving restaurant guests remark on the bitter cold as they remove their jackets for the first time this season. It’s coming.

Leaving the restaurant in the darkness, my nose hairs tingle with the first inhalation, and I can feel them freeze even as the cold air passes through my body. A little touch of moisture coats my car and the canoe atop it in a wave of frost which glitters in the lamplight. Looking up the Killington Road, I can’t see it in the darkness but I know it is there.

Sleep that night is elusive. The sense of anticipatory greatness provides no reason to find winter in dreams. Memories of magical days come flying through our minds, uncontrolled and unrequested. Yet they flow constantly, reminding us of every wonderful moment to come.

The first snowfall.

That magical snow that turns everyone from a serious, responsible adult into a giddy elementary school student anxious to make snow angels and snowmen. Or in the case of our community: skiers and snowboarders stoked with anticipation for that first glissé down the mountain.

Traditionally, the first snow at elevation comes with meteorological discussions as to when the wet bulb would be sustainable enough to have the resort turn on the guns. Discussion quickly turns to thoughts of Opening Day and when that might be. Anticipation flies through town as quickly as the snowliage photographs get shared on social media.

This time, there were no stolen turns, no mad dashes up the mountain by skiers anxious to catch the snow before it melts. No thought to the dangers of skiing on fast grass nor the big grins that happen as you finally reach the snow line. Not even a hint of a snow angel anywhere.

Killington Resort will open on Nov. 14. Period. For the first time, our community is like any other ski community. We know the day our resort will open to the public and can plan accordingly. In a year filled with chaos and uncertainty, there’s a weird stability in knowing a date that we never knew before. I don’t need my pass urgently, or to have my skis ready at a moment’s notice.

For the first time in a very long time, I can actually relax and simply enjoy this time of year. And, honestly, I am not sure what that means exactly. Cold October mornings are usually spent hiking up the mountain in the darkness wearing ski boots to steal a couple of turns before the sun comes out and melts the snow. That’s me.

But this year, I slept in. I took the time to look at the snow through other people’s eyes, scrolling through absolutely stunning photographs of the snowliage. The snowy mountains create a gorgeous backdrop to the fading red and yellows of the fall season, combined with pops of evergreen and even some still-bright green grass. I always miss this, always seeing the view from the snow looking outward across the valley. Not caring about anything but skiing.

It was glorious. Driving up the Killington Road and seeing the white trails popping out in the distance was simply stunning. I drove around town, looking at the snow from different angles, focused more on discovering the best ratio of foliage to snow than whether or not there was enough snow to ski. A strange, new feeling to simply observe the peaceful beauty of Mother Nature rather than pressing onward to the top and hoping that my knee wouldn’t get shredded on the descent.

Instead, we walked around the newly “opened” golf course, under the shadow of snowliage and just studied it all. How the tall grasses grew above the snow, with the mowing lines still visible at lower elevations. You could see the differences between the left and right sides of middle Ovation, as the pine trees have been growing taller over the past few years. The vibrancy of certain yellows and reds, still holding strong this late in the season, contrasts with the bright white and frosted greens of the mountain.

How does Mother Nature have so many seasons going on at one time? Mums are blooming down below in the valley while winter has made its first arrival up high. It’s almost as if a cloud of winter is rolling down the mountain, and soon it will encompass the entire valley in its blanket of white. I cannot wait to experience this wave from down below, waiting for winter instead of rushing forth to meet it head on.

Yes, winter is coming. But it’s not here yet.

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