First Snow — Report


Knowing perfectly well that March or April could arrive and I could, by then, be thoroughly sick of this stuff (doubtful but possible) here are some photos of our first snow of the winter. Last year we had ONE good snow storm on October 9 and that was it. Drought, no snow pack in the mountains, bad news for both of the “industries” in my valley — farming and tourism.

This year the local ski area, Wolf Creek, was the first in Colorado to open on weekends — two weeks ago with a foot of snow. Since then they’ve had (now) two more storms so it has to be pretty decent up there.

As for my big white dog and I? I was so excited at the prospect of snow I could hardly sleep. Lucky for Bear, she had no idea — or every idea through her nose that it was happening. It was wonderful to wake up to the miracle of a world transformed and quieted by snow.



Not a lot of danger on the golf course today…but something smells good.


We were out by 8:00 to catch the snow before the day warmed up, and the snow stopped falling.

I love the feeling of cold air on my face and the vision of trees covered in hoarfrost and snow. I knew it would fade fast, and I didn’t want to miss it.


Some of the trees still have leaves. I guess they just aren’t ready to move on. Snow on still golden branches of aspen trees is very lovely.



Snow on Narrow-leafed Cottonwood


After about an hour, we came home and shoveled the sidewalk. The snow was like concrete at that point as the temperature had reached 32 (0 C). I shoveled my walk and my nextdoor neighbor’s because they’re out of town. There was no real need. I knew it was going to melt before night, but I like to shovel. My neighbor came across the street and helped me finish up and we visited for a while.

Bear and I just got back from the second walk. She checked her messages and then we went back to the golf course to see if we could find any tracks. Elk, I think, much to Bear’s delight, and pee on the side of a cottonwood.

There’s a lot of drama in my world during the hours from dusk to daylight, but I don’t interfere with it. I like seeing animls, but I think, even more, I like it when animals are free from me looking at them. I love the accidental meetings, though, during what I call “human” hours. We’re both surprised at the sight of each other. No sightings today.

My dog is tired, I’m tired, but we’re both very, very happy. We’ve waited a long time for this and it’s absolutely wonderful to be able to walk through the deep snow without even thinking about it. I’m looking forward to the coming months and maybe the chance to Cross-country Ski.

Halloween Snow

There were a lot of years when I was a kid when it snowed on Halloween. It’s kind of a tradition. Bear’s happy. I’m happy. I’m about to put on my boots and take Bear for a ramble and then come home and shovel walks. I know there’s a chance (slight) that by March I’ll be sick of snow, but right now, I’m very happy. The world is costumed in moisture and white silence. The happy snowplow came by (comforting sound and sight) and all is right with the world.

Conversation with PBYT.Dog

“Yes, Bear.”
“When will it snow?”
“About the time you have my yard completely dug up, I think.”
“I meant to say no one knows.”
“Last year we’d already had a blizzard.”
“I know, but it was the only real snow we had. I think that sucks.”
“We went out in it.”
“Of course we did because we’re idiots like that.”
“I love snow.”
“I love it too, Bear. It will come, sooner or later, but we live between two mountain ranges. They catch most of the storms. It’s just how it is.”
“Why don’t we move?”


PBYT.Dog = Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog

Olden Days

I just saw this trailer for a film coming out this fall, and I want to see it.

I learned to ski on the “back” side of Pikes Peak. When I left Colorado in the mid-eighties, there were copious ski areas. The morning ski report was long. When I look at a ski area map now, it’s not like that. It shows the “mega” resorts that remain.

These ski areas weren’t resorts at all, many of them. They were places you could go in a day. Pikes Peak Ski Area was right off the Pikes Peak Highway — easy access. It was small, some rope tows, a poma and a chair lift. The snow was usually pretty good because it was on the north side of Pikes Peak — it was high, shaded and fairly well sheltered from the wind.


Pikes Peak Ski Area

These ski areas often didn’t have many runs or amenities — no fancy hotel to spend the night, no shopping, food was often burgers cooked on the mountain on oil-drum grills and eaten standing up, but with season passes that cost $25 for a family, they made the sport accessible. The focus was on skiing.

Back then, too, there was a little reverse snobbery. Real Coloradans didn’t wear fancy ski clothes because skiing was part of who they were, an every day thing, nothing to get dressed up for. Fancy ski clothes revealed that the skier was from Chicago — or worse — Texas. For a while it was popular to ski in bibbed overalls. I didn’t; but I did ski in jeans. When I started X-country skiing, I wore those clothes to the down hill ski areas because there was political contention over “skinny skiers” using downhill slopes. I had to make my point, right?

Andy and Me, A-Basin, 1982

A friend and I at Arapaho Basin, 1982. I’m wearing knickers, high wool socks and layers.

Some of the small ski areas have grown up — Arapaho Basin back in the day was smallish and funky, but now it’s expanded and appears to be more closly linked to its neighbor, Keystone. I can’t say for sure; I haven’t been back.

Right now the local ski area — Wolf Creek — is the center of a big fight between conservationists and a rich Texan who wants to develop it into a resort. A ski resort would pretty much destroy the vibe that Wolf Creek wants to maintain and that the people here are comitted to. It’s a tense and murky situation since the economy of Southern Colorado is depressed and a ski resort would help, but, at the same time, it would put “our” ski area out of the reach of most people who actually live here.

I like the idea of small, local ski mountains, but economically, I can see they stopped being viable. Climate change has made the snowfall less dependable than it was when I was a young woman. Maybe there’s no connection between thousands more people driving into the mountains every weekend from Denver to Vail, Aspen, etc. than there were thirty years ago and the fact that we have less snow. No idea.

“You’re Going to Ski???!?”



See the blue skis with the word “Wax” on them? I bought them today for $30. They’re nearly 40 years old. I owned a pair just like them in a faraway land known as Denver. I skied on them a lot AND (here’s the madness) I took them with me to the People’s Republic of China. Yeah. OK that “might” not be totally insane (I think it is), but I was living on the Tropic of Cancer.

After a year in the tropics, the skis came back to Denver in time for one of the snowiest winters in history, a winter so snowy that Colfax Avenue, one of the biggest main streets in America, was carved into two lanes with a wall of snow between them. There were days when X-country skis were the one sure way to get around town. The mayor at the time — Peña — was taking flack from everyone over his apparent inability to get the snow plows out.

The skis moved with me to California where they had some pretty decent adventures. Once was with a bunch of colleagues. Everything California was alien and the 18 inches that had landed in the Laguna Mountains east of San Diego gave me a chance to be myself. Back then I was “Ms. Ski Wax America,” and I was very proud of my back-country skis. My colleagues had skis but waxless, fish-scale, skis (like the prettier, narrower, slightly newer ones in the photo). I could have taken my fish scale skis (simpler) but I brought my back-country skis because I loved them, partly, and partly for the overall coolness effect.

One of my colleagues, a very overweight know-it-all type with fish-scale skis that were too short for his weight, borrowed some wax from me — red wax. First you don’t wax fish-scale skis. Second, red wax wouldn’t make his skis faster; it’s sticky; it’s good for climbing hills. When he was “ready,” he pointed his skis down the steep hill and didn’t move at all. Those skis had been conditioned to HOLD ON to the mountain. That was fun to watch, and he was a good sport about it. I helped him clean off his skis and things went a little better for him; not much, though. His weight pushed the fish scales down so hard they were gripping the snow. We went up and down a decent hill and then came home.

On those skis, I skied around the back side of Cuyamaca Peak where I saw cougar tracks for the first time. They skied up Mt. Palomar and back down again. It was really something to see the great, white telescope domes in the snow. As we skied down the unplowed road (a lot easier than it had been skiing five miles up the manzanita plagued trail) we passed a family who’d come up to “see the snow” a California family with a beach umbrella, beach chairs, a cooler. As we whooped our way down, a kid called out, “Hey mom! That’s what we should do!”

They skied up the PCT to the Garnet Peak Trail (no way to ski up the Garnet Peak Trail itself), accepting the constant challenge of close hedges of manzanita scrub on both sides.

And then… Life changed and the skis went to the Goodwill.

A couple of weeks ago, I went out to lunch with friends then — as an adventure — we visited the flea market, and I saw these skis in the back room. My heart skipped several beats. Of course they’re not “my” skis, but they are my skis. Without thinking I reached for them and cradled them against my shoulder like old friends. My friend Elizabeth looked at me with so much compassion, “Are you going to ski, Martha?” she asked.

I told them I once had skis just like them, and put them back against the wall. Of course I’ve thought about them for the past two weeks. Today, I went to look at them. Thirty bucks. I put them together and carried them to the cash register. The couple that mans one of the shops in the flea market looked at me and said, “You’re going to SKI?” The couple is around my age, I guess. And of course I limp and often use a cane.

I explained I used to have a pair of skis just like them. And I said, “Yep. I’m going to ski. Maybe not this year, but, yeah.”

“Watch out for avalanches,” said the wife.

“Yeah, well, I think it’ll just be the golf course.” I really have no illusions about this.

“The golf course?” she looked at me bewildered.

“Yeah,” I said. “When there’s enough snow they groom it for cross country skiing. It’s beautiful. And I live right beside it.”

“It’s good exercise,” she said. I nodded. It’s more than that, but that’s fine. It is. “You need poles.”

“I have poles at home.”

“Good luck!” they both called out as I left the store.

“Thanks,” I said, “and thanks for the moral support.”

“We hope you do it,” said the husband, a former alcoholic whose life story I became familiar with on my second visit there. My little heart glowed.

“I’ll let you know.”

You can see in the featured photo that one of them (the bottom one) is pretty badly delaminated; the other one only slightly at the tip. That made me relate to them even more. I’m delaminated. When I got home, and had looked them over good, seeing that it didn’t seem hopeless, I called the local ski store. I told them I’d bought a pair of old cross-country skis that were somewhat delaminated, and asked if they could repair them. I’ll have to take them in; maybe yes, maybe no. Either way, the skis are here and I’m glad.

I also did a little research yesterday when I was so down about things. This is what I learned in a professional paper about skiing after total hip replacement. It made me a lot more hopeful about everything.

“2 groups of 50 patients each, matched for age, weight, height, gender and type of implant, were clinically and radiographically examined after THR (total hip replacement). Group A regularly carried out alpine skiing and/or cross-country skiing, while group B did no winter sports. At 5 years, no signs of loosening were found in group A, whereas 5/60 implants in group B had signs of loosening, mostly of the femoral component (p < 0.05). At 10 years, 30 patients remained in group A and 27 in group B. No new cases of loosening were found in group B, but 2/30 cases in group A. There was a higher (p < 0.05) average wear rate in group A (2.1 mm) than in group B (1.5 mm). The wear rate was particularly high (3-4 mm) in physically very active patients in group A with localized osteolysis at the interface. It seems likely that in an even longer follow-up, the number of cases of aseptic loosening would be greater in group A than group B. Our findings, combined with the results of previously-published biomechanical studies, do not provide any evidence that controlled alpine and/ or cross-country skiing has a negative effect on the acetabular or femoral component of hip replacements. The results of the biomechanical studies indicate, however, that it is advantageous to avoid short-radius turns on steep slopes or moguls.”
PMID: 10919294 DOI: 10.1080/000164700317411825 

Since I’ve never done short-radius turns on steep slopes or skied moguls, this is good news.

There’s also the question, “What’s the point of life?” I’ve actually figured out the answer.

The point of life is to have a good time.


Rose Tinted Winter Sky

When I was a kid, I noticed that just before it snows, the gray sky is tinted pink. I’m looking at it now, and I’m expecting flurries any minute.

I remember the first year after I moved here. My heart leapt the first night I looked at the space above my bedroom curtains and saw the pink sky. “Snow!”


These moments before the snow have a different feeling, too. There is something dampened, calmed, waiting, patient with the patience we all wish we could muster whenever we wanted — waiting for medical results, stuck at a long stop light when we’re late somewhere, yearning to find out if we’re loved in return.

The sky is getting rosier. I give it 20 minutes.

(Unfortunately, the color of the clouds doesn’t show in the photo…)



Living so long in California during the drought (I think it’s time we stopped calling it a drought and started calling it “California’s climate” as it has gone on more than a decade) makes where I live now, the San Luis Valley of Colorado, a high mountain desert, seem like an oasis. The Rio Grande threading through it is, to me, a miraculous thing as are the aquifers and hot springs that are the result of the pulling apart of “our” two mountain ranges, the San Juans and the Sangre de Cristos.

But where I live, water is a complicated substance, something that can be said anywhere in the west and anywhere there’s farming. Right now water is rushing through the irrigation canal and into the fields according to “shares” — a system I’d probably learn to understand if I had bought some property outside of town.

My grandfather was a “ditch rider” back in the 20s and 30s in Montana. I don’t know much about what that means except that he rode (a horse) along the ditch easement and opened and shut gates and monitored the use of peoples’ shares. The family was proud of him for this because he was re-elected over and over, showing he was a very fair man and his neighbors appreciated his work. I think of him every time I drive to Alamosa (the “city”) to shop at a big supermarket. Along the way, there is a small, old wooden structure beside one of the irrigation canals of a type that was very common in my childhood. I have no idea what it is or why there are no longer many of them, but in the dim recesses of my memory (before I was five) there’s a faint image of my mom pointing out one of these little buildings and saying, “Your grandfather had all the keys.”

Back in the late 50s and early 60s when my grandmother was alive, the houses on her street used an irrigation canal to water their yards. I really loved it when it was “our turn” and my uncle opened the gates and the water flooded the pasture. The irrigation water supplemented rain and the opening and closing of the gates depended on how much rain had fallen. The ditch manager kept track of that, too. Farms, of course, had first “dibs.”

Here in Colorado, there has been — for many years — disagreement even who owns the run-off water from a rain storm. The state VERY, very recently gave approval for people to collect rain water at their houses. Before that? The runoff was the possession of someone somewhere according to arcane principles involved with agriculture.

In South China, where there was no shortage of water, there were different devices to move the water in and out of the fields. Some of them were beautiful — there was an elegant waterwheel pump operated by a well-balanced person (often a kid and his pals) who “climbed” it like stairs.


One of my most beautiful memories of South China is riding home from the city under a full moon, and passing a cabbage field that had been recently flooded. The rows in the field were at 90 degrees to the road so as I rode by, I saw the moon reflected over and over in each narrow channel.

Of course, my favorite kind of water is…


Spring Snow

Bear and I have been wishing for snow for MONTHS and finally we got a LOT of wet spring snow! This meteorological boon has returned to us our golf course and has given Bear her favorite toy (snow is Bear’s favorite toy). This morning when I took her and Dusty to the back yard she immediately DIVED into what was no more than 2 inches of snow (and several inches of dust and dirt). Dusty, who never played before Bear came to live with us, spent the morning wrestling with Bear in the snow. Then, I marshaled my will (because I still don’t feel great) and took them for a ramble on the paradisial snowy golf course. The wind was blowing; it was snowing pretty hard, the snow is very wet, and it was a good five inches deep (deeper now!)

When we got home Bear and Dusty were soaked. Bear had snow pom-poms on her feet and between layers of fur but we were happy. It’s snowed all day so there will be more snowy golf-course days ahead before the golfers can get back out there. And when they do? I think they might have green GREENS.

The way I see it, Bear’s fate isn’t ideal. She was bred to be a working dog in the big empty with a couple of hundred sheep. Events conspired to make her a stray puppy in a shelter in a tiny town and then the pet of a retired dog-loving lady in a small house. She never had a chance  to be introduced to a herd as a pup and go with her sweet, calm nature into her role as a livestock guardian. Dusty, Mindy and I are all the “herd” or “pack” she’s known and she loves us. And, for my part, I’m going to see Bear gets every chance to be a big dirty rambling white dog. When she’s dirty, wet and tired? It’s a happiness I understand. 🙂



Our Spring Snow ❤

No Notebooks Here…

Daily Prompt First Light Remember when you wrote down the first thought you had this morning? Great. Now write a post about it.

Uh, no. I don’t remember “when I wrote down the first thought [I] had this morning.” I never did it. Why would I do that? Why would I keep a notebook on a table by my bed? Even if I wanted to, there’s no room. The bedrooms in my house are VERY small. In my room, the smaller of the two, there’s room for a bed, a small armoire and a small space heater. Of course, it’s a queen sized bed (for the queen!). My real estate agent (and friend) asked me why I had a queen sized bed. That was a bizarre question. I didn’t answer it. I guess she figured a little older single lady doesn’t need such a big bed and I figured she doesn’t need to have an opinion about that.

Today’s first thought? Oh well, it is winter and this is HEAVEN and we have weather and last night — well early this morning, in fact it woke me up — don’t ask how I was awakened at 5 am by a soft wet snow beginning to fall, but I was — so my first thought was “That’s beautiful.” It still is. Not too cold; right at freezing when I got up. Big flakes stick to branches, softening the sounds of cars on the road. Not even the snow plow has come clattering by. Possibly some passes are closed or drastically slowed down. Beautiful morning and any moisture we get is gratefully accepted in this high desert of the San Luis Valley.