By Merisa Sherman
The sky is stunning, a perfect blue filling the sky. There is not a single cloud in the sky. In fact, it feels like there are no clouds blocking the sun at any height. Like the sun rays are a dagger through the layers of sky. With the below freezing temperatures, it’s the one time of year where the sun’s rays truly feel like a laser beam focused on the earth. And you are so cold that your body is simply drawn to the light, pulled like a magnet into its beautiful rays.
Because it is cold in the shadows. So cold that you can feel your skin breaking apart in just a few minutes of exposure. A deep cold that seeps down into your bones and causes the water at the edges of our bodies to begin to freeze. Just walking to the mailbox, I can feel my hands start to stiffen and I curse myself for thinking I was tougher than the weather. I literally had my gloves in hand and then chose no.
Because Mother Nature lays down her deepest trick on these super cold days, as they are the most beautiful of all. The snow glitters in the cold sunlight, making the world seem like it is covered in magic. The sun beckons you outside, her straightforward beauty calls like a siren and you are quickly fooled into her clutches. Who wouldn’t want to sit out there, absorbing all the warmth from the sun?
I cannot resist the call, and so I prepare for battle. I gather my -20 degree down sleeping bag, my warmest hat and mittens, my goggles and a thermos filled with hot chocolate. The door is extremely loud as it squeaks open in the cold, a long, slow sound which echoes across the valley. The sun is so low in the sky, that it is almost horizontal as it shines onto the covered porch. It’s the perfect day for settin’.
I close my eyes. Even my fancy goggles aren’t strong enough for sun like this as it reflects off the white snow and quadruples its power somehow. In many ways, these negative temperature days have the strongest, most dangerous sun. It’s a beaming, penetrating sun that combines with the wintry Vermont wind to create the most amazing goggle tans.
Yep, goggle tans. If you want one, then venturing out on a clear blue sky day like this is absolutely the perfect and fastest way to get one. Even slabbed in Dermatone, your skin will lose the battle on a day like today. Instead, you will see most people covered from head to toe, leaving no exposed skin. The colder it is, the faster the frostbite will get you. Once the temps hit 0, it takes 30 minutes to get frostbite. At -15, it takes 15 minutes. It’s -3 outside, so I’m thinking I’ve got just enough time to finish my hot chocolate before having to think about warming up inside.
It’s beautiful out here, snuggled in my sleeping bag. I’m warmer than I have been in days and I am just here enjoying the view down the valley. It is glorious, this sunny warm-cold weather. A classic Vermont contradiction. I finish my cocoa and I cannot help but sit a little longer, waiting for the cold to slowly seep into my body. How long can I remain out here, sitting silently while the animals slowly make their way out of their burrows to venture forth into the sunlight. I can see their footprints in the freshly fallen snow and I know that they, too, have chosen the warmth of the sun.
Many years ago, the now defunct American Skiing Company used the phrase “Live in the Outside” as the company motto of the year. ASC was famous for many failed things, but they did slogans super well, making hashtags before the internet even existed. “A Whole New Animal” was a dumb idea, an absolutely fantastic pun that was supposed to be exciting but felt more like a punch to the gut. But I absolutely loved “Live in the Outside.” To always be outside, to cherish nature just a wee bit every day was exciting, mesmerizing and strengthening all at once.
I felt it could be Vermont’s motto, not just the resort’s. No matter the time of year, no matter the temperature, you will always see Vermonters out and about, getting done the work that needs to be done or skiing the trails that need to be skied. There is no bad weather, just bad dress. Nothing proves that phrase more than Vermonters do every day. Because, motto or not, we live in the outside. So grab your Dermatone and your thickest down jacket. And I’ll see you on the hill!