It’s snow, Jim . . .

It did snow up in Sparty Lea and beyond into the ‘heeds, on Sunday morning, as predicted, but at 1:00pm there was nobody staffing the rope pull at Ski-Allenheads, and my foray, on what was probably the last snow day of the winter (not trying to tempt fate, just musing, and I said ‘probably’), found the place deserted. I think it wasn’t really the kind of snow anybody would want to try to glide around on, in boards or skis, being wet, damp and soggy, and the ground just felt saturated, sponge-like.

So, they say that the Inuit of Canada have a hundred names for snow, and well they might — I suppose we have a fair few names and adjectives for rain, ourselves, don’t we: mist, dreek, spits and spots, spritzing, scattered showers, intermittent, downpour, stair rods, cats and dogs, torrential, biblical. When it comes to really big blizzards, we might call one the ‘Beast from the East’ and so it will become known. Wouldn’t you love to be the weatherperson who invented that name; better than the ignominy of poor Michael Fish who flops about on deck forever with his disclaimer on the hurricane.

Still, there were no takers on the ski slope, and I’m not that much the wiser about the annual activities up there. I do know that membership is limited to 400, for the few weeks in the year when enough snow does fall for a good ski. I now know that the little slope beside the track looks like a good beginners’ area, and that the steeper and longer one beside the sign with its own rope pull looks slightly longer and more challenging. I can see that the scenery is lovely, looking down on the East Allen Valley as it does. I know you get there by bearing left at the fork in the road as you come into Allenheads, and then left again when you get to the East Allenheads Estate, and suddenly you’re there. But I don’t know, as nerdy as it sounds, how the rope pull is powered (must be a diesel engine in its own little shed, with appropriate gear ratios to pull the rope around the various vehicle wheels strategically positioned on the fellside). The last time the tows ran was on the 2nd of February.

And the Ski-Allenheads folks kindly offer a link on their snow-watch website to a couple of webcams that look out over Nenthead, reasonably nearby so you can see the prevailing snow conditions in real time. Talk about pantomime banishment though, it looks pretty desolate up there. But that’s how I felt early on Sunday afternoon, and as the sky gradually changed to a bright blue, and the predicted snowfall dried up and stayed away, I also felt sorry for the doughty skiers who would have loved to ski there, but who were, as is often the case, stymied by the lack of snow.

So, do we think too soon of spring? Is there a blizzard, a reprise of last year, a remake, a sequel of BftE in the offing? Some skiers would be happy, but I’m afraid a lot more folks would be gritting their teeth and trying to get on with it, should a new snowstorm of Canadian proportions suddenly appear from whichever direction, and freeze our bones like those of Sam McGee. Unfortunately today for the skiers, although the ground has firmed up slightly (1ºC this morning), the extra snow has not substantially materialised (though there was lovely powder in Sparty last night), and with none further expected today, it’s unlikely that the tow ropes will be running, as the latest updates from Ski-Allenheads ‘Snow Conditions and Weather Report’ blog note.

You can almost feel the yearning in these notices, can’t you? But, courage skiers, it’s still March, and will be for another three weeks, so let’s wait and see, shall we? Meanwhile, for the rest of us, bring on the April showers, eh?!

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