I was nervous for my first Montana winter. Everyone said I didn’t know what I was getting into. Ha! Proved them wrong. (Please don’t smite me, snow gods…)
This is written in May as an homage to winter, a last attempt to be excited for summer, and to persuade myself that I can wait a few months for the next ski season. As a Western Washington gal, fresh powder is an elusive beast.
I loved winter. With my whole heart. I know, I know, it was mild…only a little snow…temperatures barely dipped below zero…damn kids these days don’t know what we had to go through in the good ol’ days, all that.
But snow makes every cold toe worth it. And that’s what wool socks, 12 layers, and a seat next to the fire are for.
Yes, I was lucky. Yes, the winter was mild. Yes, I worked at a ski resort and got to take ski breaks and “put down freshies” (or whatever that should be in ski bum) every day. Yes, there were only a few weeks where our slippery driveway over the creek was really terrifying. Essentially, I couldn’t really figure out what everyone is so afraid of when it comes to winter. But not everyone has as many sweaters as I do, and not everyone has a sock drawer that could keep every foot warm in some small countries, and not everyone has snow tires.
When I was a kid, my grandmother would groan as we would cheer over a forecast for snow and the possibility that school would be cancelled. For her, snow meant shoveling, cold, and icy roads. For my sister and me, it just meant a day off.
But she had a point, because driving in the snow is dangerous, something you should have practice with. But should we let fear stop us from exploring winter wonderlands? Balderdash! If it’s the driving that scares people off of visiting Montana in the winter, then I have a secret to share with any would-be winter tourists: Don’t worry, it’s easy. Follow these three steps and you’ll be burning rubber on icy roads in no time. Er, well, or not that.
1. Come to terms with your own mortality.
When driving in the snow, many people tense because death is all around, on the black ice around the corner, in that six inches of fresh powder that will avalanche you over the cliff. But the truth of it—and this is the key—is that you are inches from death at every moment of every day.
Choking on a too-big bite of apple, tripping and smacking your head on a rock, being attacked by a flock of angry birds. Or driving down a dry, clear highway at 70 miles per hour. In the snow, we’re just acutely aware of the potential dangers. Hooray!
Once you’re on board and appreciating your imminent death with a zen calm, snow driving is a breeze. Just remember to never brake hard, to drive at your comfort speed, and to be sure not to over correct. Easy peasy.
2. Assume everyone around you is a moron.
As with the first item, this is usually true in everyday life, but remembering the moronity (moronicalness?) of those around you becomes particularly important in the snow. Is the person driving toward you going to stay in their lane? Is the person coming up to the stop sign to your right going to slam on the brakes and fishtail into you?
Take idiocy to heart and respond accordingly by distrusting every vehicle around you. I usually find that if I drive at a slug’s pace, other drivers will angrily pass me and speed off, leaving me with an empty, snow-covered road all to myself.
3. Appreciate the beauty of nature juxtaposed with the majesty of human creation.
Or just try to loosen the white-knuckle grip you have on the steering wheel. Either one will do.