Friday, January 06, 2012

January Angst and Other First World Problems

Hands down January is my least favorite month of the year.

Every winter here has its challenges; if the lack of light doesn’t get you the low temperatures often will. We have gained almost 40 minutes of daylight already since the solstice two and a half weeks ago but any difference is almost imperceptible. The light issue will change quickly now that we are gaining five or six minutes of light per day. Hooray for that.

Our weather this entire winter (starting back in October/November) has been sort of flipped around. We were blessed with some good early snow—thin cover but fine skiing—by late October but then it got cold and colder in November with record-breaking lows. Great. Got a reprieve for about three weeks of December, but just in time for winter break the temps fell off the charts.

Officially, the cold snap over the past two weeks or so hasn’t been anything extraordinary, but what has been unique has been the duration without much of a break, combined with lack of diurnal variation. Most aggravating has been little or no inversion.

We get spoiled here, because it is often 15 to 25 degrees warmer in the hills (say above 800 feet) than in the valley (which is at 450 feet). We’ve had maybe three days so far in the -40s and most of the time it’s been in the -20s and -30s in town (nothing unusual there). However, this year at Birch Hill, Moose Mountain, and where we live, the temperatures have been the same as in town. Waiting impatiently for a break, or an inversion, that lasts a few weeks!

Weather talk is just a lead-in to my real subject. Tomorrow (January 7) is the January Jaunt 20K freestyle ski race. This is sort of a joke. We have not had temperatures warm enough to practice skating (you need at least about -5 or warmer to be able to have enough glide for a decent skate workout) for more than two weeks. Forecasts are calling for -20 in the hills tonight and highs of -5 to -20. We might just make it, but my best guess is that it will be -10 or -15 at the start of the race. The last two weeks of December and first two weeks of January are almost always the coldest of the year. Why schedule a freestyle race in the midst of that?

Just do classic, will be the response of those who make the decisions, but the schedule is already heavily biased towards classic. It just wasn’t a good idea and hopefully some people will realize that.

Once again, the Gundeloppet in December should have been freestyle —it was a perfect day for skating!--and the January Jaunt 20K slated for Saturday should be classic. Schedule the damn races for the conditions we are likely to be facing. It’s that simple.

I’m not quite done with this rant. All this said with the weather, lack of gainful long-term employment opportunities for my wife, and some other things (this year's crappy local race schedule notwithstanding), for the first time since moving here we’re actually beginning to think about life outside of this community.

I can’t see leaving before the kids are done with high school, but after that it will be open season. I’ve thought about New England, but they hardly have winter anymore. The upper Midwest still gets winter and the cost of living is good, but been there/lived there and that region is kind of depressed. If we want to keep skiing (would like to be in a place where you can ski 100 days a year or more) that leaves the Rockies, Sierras, or Pacific Northwest. That would mean the end of this blog, although Anchorage or Kenai at least have relatively reliable skiing.

BC is nice. In a perfect world, that's where I'd go.

We have a few years to think about options and maybe we’ll think differently by spring time. A two week vacation each year to someplace with actual daylight and sun would help. We always travel to Colorado during summer when it's too hot there.


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