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— Let’s pretend that it’s winter.

Not winter as in the holiday season, everyone is shopping for Christmas like crazy people and soon it will be a new year. I’m talking winter - as in sitting by a window watching the snow fall under a blanket with a favorite book.

Here in Arkansas, winter just doesn’t exist the same as in my memories of a Colorado childhood or of my ski-bum life before this one. Sometimes winter doesn’t exist at all here, as I am still occasionally wearing sandals in December.

As an example of the conflicting identities winter holds in different geographical areas, take school snow days. Growing up in Colorado, it had to snow at least six feet before school was canceled. Here, if a meteorologist even mentionsthe word snow, schools are out for three days. It’s great being a student here during winter months.

The last four years, I spent winter in a place where the amount of time you live there is actually measured not by years, but by winters. The snow really begins to fly towards early October, after making brief appearances on the tallest mountains since late August. Locals don’t look forward so much to the holidays, as they do to the start of ski season in mid-November and the departure of the tourists after the new year. Snow can stillbe sparse on the hill until December or so, unless it’s an epic powder year, which are few and far between with the ever-warming of the Earth.

A perfect day of my kind of winter starts the night before. The sun goes down and it gets just cold enough to spit snow, then into the late hours of the night it really starts to pile up. In the morning, the bluebird sky wakes you to two feet of fresh, powdery snow.

While living there, I either worked a job that required me to ski everyday or one in which a condition of my employment was being allowed to miss work when there was fresh snow. (It’s a shame how unfair life can be sometimes.)

I passed the days making my way through knee deep snow on my skis. When you know the whole town,you don’t bother calling anyone to go with because they are already there. We would stay until our quads couldn’t take another run - skiing in powder is a fantastic workout.

The sun would begin to set, casting awe-striking alpenglow over the Continental Divide. Outside the locals’ favorite gathering places, the snow would again begin to fall. I would know every person in the place, and we would all eat together, laugh together, trade stories from the day and show off goggle tans, proving we could endure an entire day of powder and Rocky Mountain sunshine. Then we would head home, exhausted and settle into our rented condos and houses to stay warm.

More snow coming meant another hard day tomorrow.

Opinion, Pages 4 on 12/16/2009

Print Headline: Running Lines A winter by any other name ...

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