Wonder Boi Writes

Snow!

My new book, Edge of Glory, centers around the world of snow sports. In the story I follow a downhill skier and a snowboard x racer as they race toward the Winter Olympics starting all the way back in summer.

I did a lot of research on training regimens, and I’ll write more on that later, but one of the things that really impressed me was that what I considered seasonal sports actually are year round endeavours. I read and talked at length with athletes who were putting in full-time hours in the middle of July, and every one of them was adamant about two things.  One, to be the best, there is no off-season, and two, despite the many summer hours in the gym, every one of them is working for the snow.

This was a mentality I had no trouble relating to. Not the working year round, or the being the best at anything remotely athletic, but the idea of killing time waiting for the snow to fly is infinitely familiar to me. Starting September 1, I check the ten-day forecast daily, first looking for the time where there are no more 80-degree days on the horizon, then 70s, then 60s, and on down until I see those night-time temps staying solidly in the 30s.  Then, one day I finally I wake up to the smell of snow.  Those of us who live in dramatic winter climates can smell snow coming days before it arrives.  It’s crisp and clean, and it rides on a north wind even stronger and farther than rain across the Midwestern plains.  And unlike the pressure drop preceding a hurricane, snow in the air makes everything feel a little lighter and more invigorating.

Or maybe that’s just me.  You see, when I speak of hurricanes, I know what I’m talking about there, too, because I grew up in Florida. I lived in the balm and heat of the sunshine state until I was fifteen.  When you grow up in a place where sweating on Christmas is not unheard of, the idea of snow is downright mystical. I remember being obsessed with it as a kid. I have only one memory of snow as a child (there are pictures of me in a pink snowsuit when I was one year old, but that’s before recollection takes hold).  One year, though, we drove to Illinois so we could spend Christmas with my grandparents and cousins.  We must have been there for almost a week without so much as a flurry, then on the day we loaded the car, winter weather reports started to come in.  I begged my parents to let us stay, but since they’d grown up in the Midwest and understood what a snowstorm would mean for our 20-hour drive home, they made no promises.  In my excitement, though, I climbed into the loft of my grandparents’ house and pressed my nose to the north-facing windows.  I shivered with excitement and dread as the clouds moved slowly across the park and then the field with two horses which I also enjoyed watching.  Finally, the pine trees at the edge of the lot fell under its shadow.  Squinting, I made out minuscule white flakes against their green bows, and I exploded down the stairs with my brother and cousins all jostling to get to the door.

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The amount of snow that actually came down was negligible. By the time we left it was barely sticking to the ground, but for that half an hour we danced and played and tried to catch snowflakes on our tongues, and then we scraped off the little bit that had accumulated on top of the picnic table and made the world’s smallest snowman.  In the grand scheme of things it wasn’t much, but it was enough to hook me.

The next time I saw snow I was 16.  We’d just moved to my father’s hometown in central Illinois. That year it didn’t snow in December. No white Christmas for us. I was gutted. What was the point of living up north if we weren’t going to get snow? Then very late on New Year’s Eve it dropped below freezing.  By the time my friends and I woke up from our sleepover, the flurries had started to fall. A friend drove me home in her little car, and as we tried to crank up the defrost, snow started to come in through the vent.  I had no idea this wasn’t supposed to happen. To me it felt like living in a snow globe. Snow, inside the car? Magic! My brother and I spent much of the day finding new ways to play in the snow. That may be why the trampoline didn’t last long in Illinois.

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My next great snowy adventure came in 2003.  Vermont had just legalized civil unions.  San Francisco had gone rogue and was performing same-sex marriages. George W. Bush and company were mounting a serious backlash. And I had fallen in love. Susan and I were both living and working at Illinois State University, a long way from either coast, but we decided Vermont was our best bet to get in on the possibility of legal status for our relationship. So along with a small group of friends and family, we headed to the mountains. We were there just long enough to get our license and then wait a couple days before tying the knot in a little white clapboard church.  So, what did we decide to do with that day in between? We decided that the day before our wedding was the perfect time to take up skiing.

Yes, you heard that right.  The day before we walked down the aisle, we strapped boards to our feet and tried to ride them down one of the biggest mountains on the east coast. I don’t have any pictures of that ski trip, as we spent most of the day careening out of control.  We were bad. We fell constantly. And in our Carharts and welding jackets and camo hunting clothes, we were clearly the rednecks of the run, but right before we left, Susan and I each had one really pretty ride down a gentle bunny slope.  Again, it wasn’t much, but it was enough.  We went skiing again for our first anniversary.  Then the next year we rented a cabin in the UP of Michigan with friends and had what is still one of the best vacations of my life.

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A year later we moved to Western New York, right in the shadow of Lake Erie. Our town averages 215 inches of snow a year. Susie and I were so excited the first time we heard we were getting lake effect snow that we actually drove to the lake because we wanted ringside seats (We didn’t really understand that concept fully yet.).  And when our boy was born within view of that lake, there was no doubt how he’d be raised.

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Watching Jackson have the winter experiences I dreamed of as a kid has been one of the most purely fun aspects of the last ten years of parenting.

And that brings my love affair with snow to the present.  The towns I lived in, both in Illinois and New York, have already seen their first snowfalls of the season, but I wasn’t there for either of them. Don’t feel sorry for me. I’m having another kind of great adventure as I travel around the UK with my family, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t missing the anticipation of a white winter just a little. My son pointed to a big hill we like to climb and said, “This will be so much fun to sled down when the snow flies.”  His smile fell and his shoulders slumped when I explained that there probably wouldn’t be enough snow for sledding here. There might not be any real measurable snow at all.

The thought had never occurred to him.  A December without snow was as completely foreign to him as the idea of a white Christmas had been to me at that age. Since then he’s mentioned several times that not having snow is sad. I usually redirect the conversation, pointing out all of the other magical experiences we’re enjoying, but I can’t quite disagree with him.

But fear not, this blog does not have a sad ending.  Last week we took an epic three-day road trip through Scotland, and low and behold, there atop Ben Nevis, an old friend greeted us.

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And before any of you Scrooges cut in, I understand that snow is cold, and it can be a lot of work and can be hard to drive in, but none of that outweighs the magic for me.  Seeing that snow last week gave me the first real joy of winter.  And I’m excited to share that with all of you and Corey and Elise.

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November 22, 2017 - Posted by | Uncategorized

4 Comments »

  1. Beautiful! This post gave me chills of the good kind because my Midwest heart loves the snow too. Just bought my copy of Edge of Glory and can’t wait for it to get here. Sending you and your family all the love, Rachel!

    Comment by Jonathan Crowley | November 22, 2017 | Reply

  2. Wonderful post! I so enjoyed this on a day when it was nearly 90 degrees in Southern California. Sending you and your family lots of love!

    Comment by Diane | November 22, 2017 | Reply

  3. […] romance, Edge of Glory, and that’s because I’m pretty proud of it. As I mentioned in my last blog, I really love snow.  And I think you all know by now I love sports.  It only makes sense for me […]

    Pingback by A Tale of Two Winter Romances « Wonder Boi Writes | December 1, 2017 | Reply

  4. I liked that first skiing book you wrote. I have only seen snow one time at a ski resort over a decade ago, but all the snowy references of that book and the other snow-heavy book you wrote featuring the life coach and the cafe employee were more relatable to me than all the softball/ baseball references I read all the time in other books.

    I also liked all the descriptions of the ski resort machinery you put in Trails Merge. I notice there seems to be an unusual amount of softball/ baseball references in many similar books, some of yours included, for some reason- even more than snow. although I understand it is the US National Pastime. but from what I see, it is actually on a downward trend compared to football – in terms of TV viewership, although I think that’s also going downwards. the only American sport I can truly follow is basketball.

    regarding the perils of snow- I remember I got quite stressed reading about the shoveling part in that book with the life coach and Joey. it seems very hazardous. I also liked the hockey parts of that book. even if I don’t know all the rules of hockey, I have seen it on TV and I can follow it, thus I get the references more than all the baseball/ softball references I see all the time.

    Comment by g | December 13, 2017 | Reply


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