As the days are getting longer and peak winter has been weathered, we have all had our opportunities this season to experience the most elemental form of winter—snow. This season has been wild for all of us out west and extreme levels snowfall throughout January caused some of the highest highs and lowest lows of winter. Feelings toward snow vary wildly from excitement to fear to frustration. I will admit, I used to be a resister, but I have seen the light.
There is no shortage of natural beauty in this world. I happen to find myself living in a paradise blessed with stunning winters complimented by equally stunning seasonal counterparts. Seeing the epic landscapes of Colorado change from day to day—season to season—is a special privilege. Though all seasons bring unique character to the landscape, none is more epic than winter. Snow = drama. Take, for instance, the typically (relatively) mellow terrain of the flanks of Mt. Elbert. Beautiful sans snow, but otherworldly with it’s winter coat.
Take a stroll through a snowy forest. As you leave behind the hustle and bustle of modern life and enter the cold kingdom of the forest, something happens—a noticeable shift. Silence. If a pin made a sound falling into snow, you could hear it. But that’s the point—it doesn’t make a sound. Few settings, natural or otherwise, can achieve the level of serenity found here.
Personally, the first time I recall noticing the striking silence of the frozen wilderness was actually above tree line during a winter ascent of Quandary Peak. The wind completely died down and a distinct sound became audible—a constant ringing. The kind of incessant ringing you might hear as you fall asleep in your quiet bedroom after a concert. Once that faded, I was able to talk to my friends there with me from 100 feet away without raising my voice. This was striking—it stuck with me. This was perhaps the moment the allure of the winter landscape truly grabbed hold of me. It hasn’t let go.
Winter means different things to different people. Some are stoked for skiing, some for ice climbing, and others just enjoy the juxtaposition of having a fire on a snowy night. Snow adds both beauty and challenge to all facets of life. Simply being surrounded by a snowy landscape is beautiful, as I mentioned before. Of course, shoveling and driving on snow can be a hassle. An alpenglow sunrise while hiking in the mountains, perhaps en route to a summit, is undoubtedly more beautiful in a frozen landscape. The hike will be just as undoubtedly considerably more challenging than the more casual summer counterpoint. I enjoy these contrasts, though. One helps you enjoy the other. Yin to Yang. The good, the bad, and the beautiful.