Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The First Snow of the Year

Nobody can express the excitement of the first snow of the year like Muskoka-born musician Hawksley Workman.

It has been the summer to end all summers – warm, sunny, no mosquitoes. It has been the mother of all autumns – warm, sunny, dry, and most importantly, long. 

I remember my first Halloween in Winnipeg, October 1995. The snow was so deep the few intrepid kids who came to our door were wading through it. We concluded that was normal to our new home, although in most years since then the snow has not been quite so deep in October. This year we whined over a few drops of rain. How quickly we forget.

This year, September turned to October turned to November, and the amazing, double-digit temperatures went on and on. We began to think, somewhere deep inside, that maybe it would stay like that. The leaves turned gold and then dropped, but we didn’t believe it. It was still warm, wasn’t it? Maybe this year, things would be different. Maybe this year, the inexorable logic of life above the 49th parallel would relent. Wasn’t there some massive climate change going on? Bad news for the polar bears, but maybe good news for us.

The tease went on. Our local meteorologist displays the most impressive accuracy I have ever seen in weather forecasting – almost certainly because he lives here rather than looking at satellite pictures in Edmonton. He told us that the Colorado low coming up would mostly just give us rain on Sunday night, with maybe just a sprinkling of snow on the city. Western Manitoba was going to get it, as usual – 15 to 30 cm, those lucky people who live near those big, beautiful, overflowing, not-yet-frozen lakes. 

Sunday reminded me of life in Western Europe – grey, drizzly, warm. My family went out to visit friends Sunday evening and drove home in the pouring rain and sleet. Snow? We didn’t want to think about snow.

Monday morning it was finally here. Only a couple of centimetres in the city, but oh, what a picture postcard. The roads were black, but all the trees, boulevards and roofs were a gorgeous, virginal white. I wanted to pick up the city and shake it like a snow globe. It’s quiet like a snow globe, too, when the snow dampens the sound of traffic.

Of course, the driving was abominable. Every year the good citizens of Winnipeg act like they’ve never seen snow before. It takes a day or two before everyone remembers what this place is like for six months of the year; they start keeping their distance and slowing down well ahead of intersections. But there are always a few spikes in the accident rate beforehand, usually minor, fortunately.

Welcome, snow. We will curse you by February, but for now we’ve forgotten those unseasonably high temperatures from last week in the joy of your beauty. Time to go dig out those mitts and tuques – I know I’ve got them around here somewhere …


  1. Yuck. Snow.

    It's hit New England. It's hit Manitoba. Hasn't hit us yet. I can wait.

  2. To be honest, it's mostly gone already. But there will be more, and it will eventually stick .. that's just how it is here. Deal with it ;-).

    Haven't you guys had double-digit temps this week, or was that just Ontario?

  3. You make me nostalgic and a little jealous - until you remind me about the whole "driving in it" thing. :) Then the Texan in me takes over and says, "Snow!? Evil ice from the sky! Nooo...what the--what's this white stuff? Nuclear plant blow up?" ;)

  4. LOL Holly! Yeah, that's what it is, for sure!

  5. Isn't it funny how the same forgetfulness about driving in snow seems to affect drivers all across Canada.

    We had a similar spike in accidents last week when we had a few icy patches on our roads here in Ontario.

    Other than two very light dustings,which hardly qualify, we await the first real snow and all that comes with it.

  6. Thanks for the comment, Peter! I hope we don't both end up really whacked with snow later in the winter ... it's a La Nina year which is supposed to be colder than normal, but so far nobody has told her ;-).


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