A good hearty snowstorm requires snow suits and idiot mittens

By Cindy Phillips updated Wed, Dec 14, 2011 10:19 AM

When I moved to Vermont several years ago, my affection for a good, hearty snowfall took on a new meaning. Snow was good for business. It meant skiers, riders and snowmobilers would come to town. I began the habit of turning on the weather channel the minute I opened my eyes in the morning. I willingly donned my winter gear and shoveled fire exits and staircases. I served as co-pilot in the hotel truck for late-night plowing adventures. I smiled when the snow gods brought a good spring storm because it meant an extended season.

The odd thing is that even though I lived in a ski resort town, I never skied. I did make it to the top of the mountain a few times and I was amazed. I was assigned a feature story about groomers one winter and got to ride in a Cat for a few hours. It was exhilarating. I also rode the gondola to the top for a spring snow shoe trek down. OK, we ended up on Wheelerville Road after a harrowing adventure getting lost in the woods, but it was fun telling the story afterwards. But skiing down that mountain? Umm, no way.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no opposition to skiing. I simply never learned how to do it. I didn’t grow up in one of those families that flocked to the slopes each winter when the flakes started to fly. We grew up poor, and extra-curricular activities occurred in the street along with the other two dozen kids from the block. And none of them were named Jenny.

We had our fair share of snow storms growing up on Long Island and we made the best of them. The art of dressing was an adventure in itself. We didn’t have lightweight winter clothing made from synthetic fibers that allowed for comfortable layering. No, it was all about snow suits, idiot mittens, and clumsy rubber boots that went over our shoes. These were affectionately known as galoshes and they often came in God-awful colors. Naturally, they never matched the rest of our outfit which was a mish-mash of hand me downs from older siblings.

If you wanted to go outside and play in the snow, you had better be in it for the long haul. You had to make sure you went to the bathroom as well, because if you came back inside for any reason, you were staying inside for a spell. There was no in-and-out when it snowed because it simply took too long to dress and undress and mom had to assist. Once the mittens went over your hands, you were helpless to zip, button or snap. You were at her mercy and she was short on patience once the deed was done.

Snowstorm activities included building a snow man, snowball fights and sledding. Our snowmen always looked raggedy because we rolled the ball for too long across the lawn and it picked up grass and dirt. They looked liked homeless snowmen. We also had to improvise facial features because mom would never give up a whole carrot for his nose. So it was usually sticks and rocks that made up his face.

I never enjoyed the snow ball fights. We had too many boys on our street who took pleasure in packing the snow so it was hard and dense, and hurling it as fast as they could at the back of your head. I threw like a girl, so I barely ever reached my intended target, the snowball typically disintegrating before it got there anyway.

Sledding was its own unique adventure because we lived on flat streets. If there was enough snow, we would attempt to build our own hills, but they never really amounted to much. So we would drag each other across lawns leaving ruts in our path. When we got older and could drive, we would pack the sleds and saucers in the car and head to the exit ramp of the Long Island Expressway. There was a huge slope along the frontage area where teens flocked after a good snowfall. I honestly don’t know how we survived those visits without succumbing to some serious injuries.

I recall one eventful blizzard that socked us in for a few days. I believe we saw about three or four feet of snow drop in a two-day period. I was still quite young, but my older sister and her friends built an elaborate fort in the drifts. They worked for hours pushing and dragging snow to make actual rooms with walls. They carved out tables and bench seats. They gathered foot-long icicles from the roof eaves and crafted windows. It was an incredible work of art and we played in that fort for hours on end, never getting cold because we were having too much fun. Mom was thrilled to have us out of the house for so long. She even sent snacks out to us so we lingered longer.

I still enjoy snow – in moderation. There is nothing more peaceful than a late-night gentle snowfall when the moon is full. I love taking a walk through fresh-fallen snow before any other footsteps have been etched. Just don’t ask me to do anything once the mittens are on.

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