Winter is up there in the sky above us, patiently circling, waiting to come in for a landing. Eager skiers are beginning to hear reports of snow in the mountains, snow in the high country, snow on the upper slopes. Snow is falling in downtown Bozeman, along the trails of Livigno, on the plateau at West Yellowstone, among the Olympic trails at Canmore, in the open loop between Sovereign Lakes and Silverstar. Mt. Washington wears a whitened summit, the Flatirons reflect a new veneer of glimmering silver: early snows are falling. In Colorado’s Front Range, an afternoon storm brought 4-5 inches, bending over the trees, spoiling a day of roller skiing. Even days after the storm, shaded curves on canyon roads still hold panic-inspiring slush and confidence-shaking road sand.
How strange it is to go looking for clear roller skiing pavement when the mountain tops are all white. But this is not winter’s snow—this is an early arrival, a “save the date” notice, a precursor of what’s to come. Clouds swirl, pressures shift, winds converge, and this too-early delivery sends the city scrambling for trucks with plows, sends cars on the high passes skidding into ditches, sends a warning to those who aren’t yet ready. Early snows anoint those winter-faithful who impatiently await the blessing, but this first November snow will not be part of winter: it won’t lie beneath the gathering blanket of the season, it won’t provide a “good base” for snows that come later, it won’t become part of some future glacier. November days are likely to warm again, and this snow will melt back into streams and rivers, or trickle back into the earth, or evaporate back into the sky. Winter is up there in the sky above us, patiently circling . . . but it may make us wait a bit longer.