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Deep Winter in the (Almost) Deep South

2/18/2007

SHOW ME WHERE THIS IS

Sunday evening on February 18, 2007, Carroll Lowe drove to Appalachian Ski Mountain to put in his time as a professional ski patroller. This was his 15th season. He invited me to tag along. I was pleasantly surprised by the good ski conditions in the southern US. This was my first trip back to the Appalachian resort in about 30 years. After having learned to ski there, I grew frustrated with the often warm weather and slushy or crusty snow. In the intervening years I had moved on to larger and higher slopes in Wyoming, Utah, Idaho and Montana.

It had been snowing off-and-on for several days, including fairly heavily that evening. And the temperature was a brisk 14 degrees. So we had plenty of powder. Unfortunately, the wind was also wintry, gusting up to 50 mph. The wind chill factor was a stunning 35 degrees below zero! Were we really several hundred miles south of the Mason-Dixon line?

The view from the lodge up the slope looked like pictures of the North Pole. The constant high winds picked up the fresh, dry powder and swirled it around into phantasmagoric waves of white up to 30 feet high. At times, the wind was strong enough to stop skiers from sliding down hill. Carroll opined that it was the coldest wind chill he had experienced in 15 years on the mountain.

Besides enjoying the great snow, I was pleased to put my clothing and equipment to a good test. I doubt that I will ever have to do anything outdoors under any colder conditions. My good olí L.L. Bean Gore-tex shell jacket and bibs, L.L. Bean pile suit, Wickers expedition weight long underwear, Patagonia neoprene skull cap, Outdoor Research toboggan, Patagonia cap, OR pile neck gaiter, Cabelas gauntleted leather gloves, polypropylene glove liners and L.L. Bean heavy wool socks did the trick. There were plenty of times when I was none too hot! But neither was I too cold.

Often the worst conditions make the best story. This trip was one of them.


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