Years ago my ex and I went to visit my mom in Billings, Montana. That year, Billings was experiencing extreme cold — -20 F/-40F at night. That’s actually pretty close to Celsius; not much conversion needed. We had rented Cross Country skis (living in San Diego at the time) and really, really, really, really wanted to ski.

Our standards for snow and trail grooming were very low. Mine still are. When you live in a place where there is little snow, and that 30 miles away, you go ski on what you have. Montana at Christmas was always a kind of paradise for us. That very cold winter, we skied anyway, usually on a trail through the woods along the Yellowstone River. If you’re decently dressed when you X-country ski you will get warm, even when it’s very, very cold.

It was other-worldly.

When it’s that cold, flowing water — even in the process of freezing — is warmer than the air. It makes steam. The river was a mixture of ice and mist. The conditions for skiing were not great, but the experience was beautiful.

A few days later, we took our skis up to Red Lodge only to discover that in Red Lodge — just a couple thousand feet higher in elevation than Billings — the temperature was “normal” meaning in the 20s (-6 C and above). It felt balmy to us at that point. The heavy cold air was trapped by the upper warm air and couldn’t move out of the lower elevations until the weather pattern changed.

The fancy golf course at Red Lodge had been groomed and we enjoyed skiing on well-manicured deep snow in less extreme temps, but there was nothing memorable about it. The next day we returned and took our skis on a trail beside the creek that runs down from the Beartooths into Red Lodge. On the trail we saw cougar tracks and decided to go home.

I hope tomorrow I get to take my waxless X-country skis out to the golf course. I hope I am still able to do this. The temperature is supposed to be pretty chilly, 14, but a positive number. I hope Bear isn’t too hurt when I don’t take her along.

Happy New Year, everyone.

17 thoughts on “Cold

  1. That is a cold that is incomprehensible to me. It must make you one tough mountain woman, which means that the wonders of the golf course will surely be yours to experience. You don’t have to be elegant or proficient. Just have fun.

  2. Temperatures of -5/-10°C are not exceptional for us although this year we have had a milder Winter thank usual. After 50 years living in Switzerland, I have never stood on skis and never really wanted to. Mr. Swiss skied as a boy, as most Swiss but that was many years ago.

  3. I am waiting with bated breath on your upcoming skiing adventure. May it be even more than you hope for.

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