When Snow Calls….

Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed ….Wallace Stegner

It snowed this week. Dropped everything. Dropped a town run. Dropped cleaning the house. Dropped laundry. Dropped making the bed. When snow calls, I ski.

Skis. Boots. Poles. Thrown in the truck, there to stay until March. Pack winterized—rain gear replaced with a warm layer, extra hat and gloves, glide wax added.

The first snowfall sends us up into national forest lands above Gardiner. As we climbed the switchbacks, hunter orange gave way to slush then white powder. We grinned hopefully as we maneuvered toward the road’s end.

Not knowing what to expect and not expecting much, we clicked into our skis and slid around the gate. Surprise! The snow was soft and got softer and smoother as we climbed along the track. My heart soared as my arms remembered how to place poles and my legs remembered how to push and glide. Silence held us in its grasp; the only sounds being our breath, the swish of the skis and the occasional light thud of snow dropping off branches. Tracks crisscrossed the trail as squirrels raced between trees and weasels loop-de-looped in and out of holes. The sun peaked out from behind low clouds and Ash Mountain came into view. We stopped to take it in, giving thanks for the beginning of another season of cruising over snow.

As thrilled as I was to be sliding once again on the snow, I could not help but pause and consider the battles that are being fought to keep our public lands safe from those who would destroy them for profit. Bears Ears, Grand Staircase Escalante, lands in Paradise Valley and even next to Yellowstone National Park, and more lands than I can name are in jeopardy, needing us to fight for their continued existence.

It is a tough war that we face. Losing one battle for a beautiful area like Bears Ears is irrevocable. It is an exhausting fight—while those who want to take the land for their own gain can keep coming back, keep bashing on the gates until they fall, we on the other side know that we have only one chance to win each fight and even then it is never permanent. I hate to say that it is the nature of the game… the nature of the human desire to expand and take over everything.

On December 2, the president has announced he will visit Kane County in Utah to announce a shrinkage of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante, and who knows what else since they have refused to make any information public.

My inspiration comes from public lands. I need wild places like I need air to breathe. Wallace Stegner, a much wiser person than me, said it perfectly: “We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.”

This is my fear: our species seems to be writing itself out of the wild, our hubris in all our gadgets and shopping malls and politics has created a false ‘real’ world out there, one in which there is a huge disconnect between the importance of strong and healthy wild lands and our own physical and mental health. For me, the real world is the wild world. For me, it is of utmost importance to be at home in the wild, for if I am not at home in the wild, I am not at home in my own skin.

The snow softened a bit as we returned to the truck. The clouds cleared and the views lengthened as we slid from forest to meadow. We laughed as we thanked each other for the day and toasted to a new ski season and drove back to town, already planning our next trip into the winter backcountry of our priceless public lands.

We are the most dangerous species of life on the planet, and every other species, even the earth itself, has cause to fear our power to exterminate. But we are also the only species which, when it chooses to do so, will go to great effort to save what it might destroy.                        Wallace Stegner










12 thoughts on “When Snow Calls….

  1. John Gillespie

    Blending the tranquility of freshly fallen snow with the the inspiration to fight for public lands, your powerfull esaay, Julianne, is a call away from the mundane, an invitation to contemplation and an incitement for action. A true call of the wild it is. I especially like the inclusion of the spot-on Wallace Stegner quote.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “For me, the real world is the wild world. For me, it is of utmost importance to be at home in the wild, for if I am not at home in the wild, I am not at home in my own skin.” Your words ring true for me. I have fond memories of learning to cross-country ski in Yellowstone National Park. I am never so alive as I am in the wild. I will fight to keep the “real” world just that, real, wild, and free. Thank you for this beautiful post Julianne.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy Thanksgiving to you, Ken! Glad to hear about Bannock and Lost Lake. Last Sunday Tower was decent. Thinking we may have to wait a while now, though. Safe travels to you and Jennifer.


  3. Neysa

    I’ve been staring at this box for some time, trying to decide what it is I’m feeling and what I want to say. First, great writing and photos and Stegner quotes, Julianne! Thanks for taking me along on your fresh-snow ski. It stirs an uneasiness in me. I have lived, counting this one, 13 winters in southern Arizona. It is easier on the old bones and joints. I love my friends here and activities such as “game nights” and being active in the local theater. And being able to hike in the mountains virtually throughout the winter, though not to the higher elevations in the coldest months. I’ve acclimated to life without changing to snow tires…and back…and there’s no snow shovel in my garage, no windshield scraper in my car. And my Bozeman summer home provides three seasons, with flurries of a fourth. Still, the northern Rockies call and that means snow and ice and cold. Could I re-acclimate, though I’m older now? Should I try an entire year or at least a part of a winter there to test myself? I would miss my Arizona support system of friends-like-family terribly and, most especially, my involvement in the theater. I’d have to buy skis(likely wax-less, as that’s all I know)/poles/boots and maybe snow tires. I’d have to invest in a warmer wardrobe (plenty of thrift stores there). I’d have to find out if I’d jeopardize my AZ voting registration …aren’t you supposed to live at least a few days over 6 months in a spot to vote there? I’ve said for years that I miss the snow, but not the cold. They tend to go together, I suspect you’ve noticed. Ah, me. Life’s challenges, life’s dilemmas. For now, enjoy the snowy mountains for me and I will enjoy the dryer, warmer, public lands around here, while doing what I can to protect them all, starting with Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, Neysa. No matter where we are we wonder about other places, climates. And no matter where we are we will fight to keep our public lands.
      Should you ever decide to try a winter in Bozeman (by the way, Bozeman winters are worse than Gardiner winters–we are in the banana belt here), I would be happy to lend you a pair of my skis… I have a ‘few’ –grin.
      I sometimes wonder about living in a warmer climate– skiing provides a relief from the pounding on trails that my knees take, and I wonder about hiking the entire year with no smooth glide time… I think I would miss the glide too much. Maybe.
      You, however, you get to hop from Arizona to Montana, the best of both worlds: It is good to have two lives, isn’t it?


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