Cosu winter 2013 backcountry freeze frame cpxgom

Image: Thomas Cobb

Two sentences I can’t imagine myself ever saying out loud:

“Lucky for me, my cell phone fell into the Porta-Potty.”

“I nominate Charlie Sheen for the Nobel Peace Prize.”

That said, times and people do change. What is unthinkable today might make perfect sense years, or even days, later. Case in point: just last winter I called downstairs to my mate, “Hey Ellie, it’s warmed up to 3 degrees below zero. Let’s go skiing.”

An arctic cold front slammed into Colorado early in 2012, making the state as chilly as Simon Cowell’s heart. It was not uncommon to wake up and have the mercury register 20 below zero (wind chill minus-45). One day on our little in-home weather station, the high for the previous twenty-four hours registered as 7 above zero, and the low, 22 below.

Now, we’re hardly hothouse flowers. To discourage overnight houseguests, we keep our thermostat set on 55. So after crawling out from under our down comforter, Ellie and I enjoyed our morning coffee while wearing sweaters and ski hats. On some days, we can see our breath indoors.

I contend that cold weather builds character and camaraderie. No offense to the Texans and Floridians who may be reading this, but it is also my contention, based on hard-earned years of experience in the service industry, that the nicest people come from the coldest climates.

Bitter weather seems to give us all a common cause and a mutual dialogue. It also serves as a catalyst for bragging and poetic license. It’s almost as if the colder it was outside your home that particular morning, the more resilient a person you could claim to be. We have three thermometers scattered around our home, and whenever I quote/brag about the morning low, I’ll invariably use the lowest of the three readings.

As well as providing a common cause, Neptune-like temps lend perspective: after a morning of 20 below zero, 3 below seems tropical. Ellie and I bundled up and headed out. To go cross-country skiing.

The beauty of cross-country skiing or snowshoeing is that a day that is too frigid to endure cold-soaking on a chairlift is totally doable traveling across snow under your own power. We headed to our favorite local trail, and though the temps were obscene and the snow was slow, as long as we kept moving we were comfortable.

It has been our experience that when the mercury plummets, only those with antifreeze in their veins head outdoors to play. We did a three-hour ski tour and saw only two other humans; each person we met stopped to talk about the weather.

We finished our ski and, knowing that any restaurant would be warmer than our home, we decided to go to lunch. The buzz at the bistro was the cold. The waitress, an old friend, whispered that the frigid front had improved her tips—and confessed that after her shift ended, she was heading out to ski at the Nordic Center. “I know the place will be empty,” she said, and walked off humming the Snow Miser song from that old stop-motion Christmas special.

I realize that cold weather can be bad for the tourist trade, but frankly, as I’m writing this in my Bermuda shorts in August, I miss the days of 20 below. I miss the sense of superiority I felt being able to get out and enjoy the mountains with the frosty few while others stayed inside. I miss the sense of shared duress and the consolations that come with dealing with a universal challenge.

So I say: bring back the Arctic front. Who knows, as I’m shrugging off my down coat in the throes of hypothermic delirium, I might just nominate a certain Mr. Sheen for that Nobel Peace Prize ... but first I’ll have to find my cell phone. 

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