Roger Phillips: Embrace winter; it makes you a better person

rphillips@idahostatesman.comFebruary 13, 2014 

Time for some tough love, folks, so step up to the line and stand at attention — shoulders back, chin high.

I know you’re itching for spring, and this little stretch of warm weather is just a teaser.

It’s still winter, and it comes in many forms. Sometimes it sucks, like that long inversion we were persistently complaining about. Sometimes it’s a drenching rain — not fun, but a necessary evil.

But when winter pours the gentle white stuff on the ground and swaths the mountains in shimmering mink coats, you better appreciate it. I know, driving can be a pain, but it’s a small price to pay.

When winter looks like winter is supposed to look, it brings joy to many of us and provides that precious water that we all rely on for everything from tap water to tubing.

Winter also makes sitting indoors in front of a flaming wood stove or gas stove feel like a cabin in the woods, even if you live in a subdivision.

So please, don’t be Debbie Downers about snow, and here’s something else to wrap your heads around.

Boise temperatures peaked at 109 degrees on July 1 last year, and it was 99 degrees on Aug. 14.

In between those dates, we had about six weeks of temperatures in the 90s and 100s.

That means it’s been only 183 days since the last time it was 100 degrees outside. I’m fudging a little with the numbers, but I’m pretty sure it was a degree hotter at my house.

Let’s look at it the other way. If we again have 100-degree heat on July 1, that’s only 137 days away.

I remember last summer in Boise, and like nearly every summer in Boise, it was hot — real hot — and it will be hot again.

When it’s hot, I sweat and hide from the sun. My outdoor choices are narrowed to basically two locations: on the water or in the mountains.

Ride my bike in the Foothills when it’s 100 degrees? Forget it. Take my dog hiking? Not unless she’s soaking wet and I have a barrel of ice water strapped to my back.

I know I get more Foothills miles in January than I do in July, so there’s that to consider. But there’s so much more you can do in the snow.

Go ahead and blurt out something silly, like you can’t go swimming. Did you see the Polar Bear Club at Lucky Peak on Jan. 1? You can go; you just don’t want to.

And while you’re being Captain Whiny Pants about snow, ask yourself this: Have you ever seen a moping snowmobiler when there’s 6 feet of snow on the ground?

How about a snowboarder or skier during a powder day?

There’s something soul stirring about sliding on snow, and South and Central Idaho have so many options to do it. Anyone can have fun on snow.

Four ski areas are within a short drive, and tubing hills at many of them, as well as other areas, including a new tubing hill at Eagle Island State Park in the heart of the Treasure Valley.

How about ice fishing? Before you come back with that obvious “Grumpy Old Man” reference, it’s wrong. Ice anglers aren’t grumpy; they have a blast, but that movie is still hilarious.

Deep down, you know I am right about this one.

Winter is about having fun. Kids get it, but somehow, too many adults forget the simple joy of playing in snow.

Here’s a little social experiment for you. After a fresh snow, softly pack a snowball and gently lob it a coworker. You will probably get a smile and a retaliation. It might break out into a full-blown, giddy snowball fight.

Then take a squirt gun and squirt them on a 100-degree day. You will probably get punched or reported to human resources.

Are people just more fun loving during winter?

I don’t know, but winter people have a lot of fun during tough weather.

I love the dirt-track style driving you can do on snow.

“Honest, Officer, I didn’t mean to do that perfectly controlled power slide around that corner. It just sort of happened.”

Don’t forget spring isn’t far away, but early hints of it are usually followed by more cold and snow in February and March, often in April and sometimes into May.

We’re blessed with four distinct seasons in Idaho, and one of the many benefits is you always have something to look forward to and appreciate.

A week or two of 20-degree temps make a sunny 40-degree day feel like T-shirt weather, and a sunny 60-degree day feel like the warm hand of God is resting on your shoulder.

So come on, people. Winter is cool, literally and figuratively. Zip up your warm jacket, put on your boots and get outdoors.

Give Ol’ Man Winter a big ol’ hug and embrace the season.

It won’t last much longer, and you don’t want to miss any of the fun.

Roger Phillips: 377-6215, Twitter: @rogeroutdoors

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