Columns 2016

Where’s the snow?

Alaskans like to whine sometimes, but not always about things you’d expect them to whine about. Our whining tends to make people from the lower 48 stare at us in stunned disbelief. Yes, Donald Trump is annoying. Yes, the fact that our legislators think there is still something to be debated about the Taj Mahawker is annoying. Yes, the fact that Marco Rubio sounds like a bad R2D2 reboot is annoying. But what is most annoying this winter to Anchorites, what they are whining most about, is that it is winter and there is no snow. None. Nada. Barely a dusting left from the pathetic amount that has fallen. Once again, the real Iditarod starts far from us where winter still looks Alaskan.

I am often torn between annoyance over the lack of snow and terror over the presence of ice hidden on every sidewalk and parking lot. It makes walking an Olympic sport. Can we reach the door from our driveway without executing a double flip? Can we make it to the mailbox without doing a triple axle? Can we walk our dogs without the illusion of speed skating as they pull us through ice patches, striving to reach that better smell three leaves of grass away? And why the heck are those leaves of grass still visible?

I don’t know about you, but I did not move to Alaska in order to look out my window in February and see frozen, unfriendly, ugly brown ground stretching out as far as my eyes can see. If I wanted that, I could have stayed in Atlantic City where the ocean “breeze” melted most snow so quickly that we rarely had snow days called at school. What fell the night before and created blizzard conditions up and down the rest of the state melted into slushy grey stuff by the time morning arrived on Absecon Island.

I moved to Alaska to see what it was like when snow fell and actually stuck around. In fact, I moved to Barrow on the theory that if Barrow didn’t have snowy winters, there was no hope for humanity’s future. Barrow never disappointed. There was always snow. And dark. And cold. It was my ideal environment. But then aging happened and I needed to move closer to certain types of medical care. So I came to Anchorage assuming I could still enjoy those long, cold, and dark winters of the Arctic that I loved. I know in doing so I totally bypassed Fairbanks where I imagine there is more snow this year than in Anchorage. But, well, it’s Fairbanks.

This is not the experience I expected from Anchorage when I moved here. I expected snow would start in October and not end until May and that’s pretty much what happened most winters. I could look out my window and see moose grazing on my trees while the snow covered their poop.

But now things are changing and, as Sheldon Cooper would say, I don’t like change. I don’t want Anchorage winters to look like, well, like what it looks like right now – snowless, barren and unappealing. City zoning regulations already make Anchorage ugly on so many levels. At least the snow used to cover up the worse of it. I know I can wander the Coastal Trail or any number of our city green spaces and still see the beauty of nature. But when I look out my front window at what should be a winter wonderland, I see frozen moose tracks in the ice on my front lawn and trash blowing around. If I listen closely, I can hear the roots of all my perennials screaming in their death agonies as they succumb to the nightly freeze unprotected by a blanket of snow.

So my question is, what gives? How did Anchorage end up with less snow and warmer temperatures than my friend in Alabama is experiencing? Why did I even bother with my snow tires this year? And isn’t Donald Trump’s presence on the national stage as a presidential candidate enough mockery from the cosmos for one year?

So that’s my whine for the week about this winter’s weather. Be honest. It was a refreshing change from politics, right? But now, sadly, we must once again turn our attention to the national stage, which makes our snowless winter look appealing by contrast.