Really Phil? Early Spring?

Every year I look forward to Groundhog Day, whether I am hoping for Early Spring or Extended Winter, I like the idea of a rodent predicting the weather. 

Groundhog Day apparently stems from German tradition. In America the natives made their predictions based on the behaviors of other rodents, primarily the muskrat. It’s true –  the old people predicted the length and harshness of the coming winter based on the size of their neighboring muskrat “push-ups” – the mud, stick and grass lodges muskrats build along marshes and streams, in which they can spend a frozen winter, even using the mound as food in the late months.  

Creatures who live close to the Earth must know – for one thing, they can feel the temperature and texture of the dirt. For another,  as humans observe them, they observe the insects. Each in turn.

This year I am disappointed with Phil’s prediction – early Spring. I was hoping for at least six more weeks of snow. My husband reminds me, – Spring can bring snow too. I hope so. 

Yesterday we took a day off to hit the slopes at Shasta.  As a child I went with my family to Shasta in the Summertime. We camped, hunted, fished there, and rode the Huff and Puff a couple of times before it was put out of operation in 1971.  But I had never snowboarded Shasta before yesterday.  

Sugar Bowl in Tahoe has more features, oftentimes more snow, earlier and later in the year, and they used to have a very affordable mid-week pass with lots of promotional deals like points to use for free food and other goodies. That all ended with the last couple years of poor snow. Sugar Bowl is under new management, they’ve raised prices, cut the deals, and for a while, they weren’t opening their main lodge during the week, meaning, no bathrooms.   By the time they wised up and re-opened the lodge, we had got disgusted with the mismanagement, and stopped buying our yearly passes after 20 years. 

We find, we had got into a rut. Now we can spend the same amount of money we spent on the pass, and although we can’t make as many trips, we can get out there and try new places, do new things. Last year we had a few good trips all the way down to Mammoth Mountain, in Southern California, and we’ll probably keep that tab open. But, Shasta finally got some snow, so we decided to see what we’d been missing.

I’ll tell you what we hadn’t been missing – Bay Area and LA people. Tahoe stinks of the Bay Area, that was something we’d just gotten used to – rude asshole city people, screaming at their kids, avoiding eye contact as they shoved ahead to grab a cafeteria chair right out of your hand, etc. 

At Mammoth we experienced the LA crowd – different, but still obnoxious. Where Bay Area people are always uptight, the LA crowd is more relaxed, but both are demanding and, wow, just plain GRABBY. They will shove ahead of you in line, they will butt their way onto your chair or your table in the lodge, they will have loud conversations across your face without so much as a “so where you from Hon?”

I had not thought for a long time how annoying those people were until yesterday.   Northern California people are nicer. You can talk to them and they don’t act like you just exposed yourself, that’s something right off the bat.  All day yesterday I was not cut off once, nobody “buzzed” me, not even a skier. 

At Shasta the runs were beautifully groomed – on a Monday, that’s worth noting. At Sugar Bowl they stopped grooming the runs on weekdays because they want to save them for the weekend crowds. At Mammoth they stopped grooming during the day after an inebriated woman ran into one of the groomers and the resulting lawsuit cost the resort a pretty penny. Grooming makes a lot of difference for a person like me who is not that skilled. 

The weather yesterday was almost perfect – sunny slopes and temperatures in the 30’s, no wind. There had been light rainthe previous night, so there was no powder, but the grooming was adequate to keep the deck nice. 

No, I didn’t take my camera, sorry about that. One thing that always strikes me about  Mt Shasta is how WHITE it is, just gleaming like toothpaste. The resort lies below the summit, so you are staring up at that face – it seems alive. 

And, from various points, you can see Mt. Lassen gleaming in the distance. Maybe that’s the next road trip, I’ll have to start wheedling my husband to take me up to Lassen again. 





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