Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ask and yea shall receive . . . big time

Many of you may not know this, but winter is my favorite season for numerous reasons. First of all, I have raging allergies. So my mood isn’t the greatest whenever hay fever season rolls around. Second, I was an avid skier in my teens.

I bring this up is because, during the last ten years, we’ve had minimal snowfall here in southwestern Pennsylvania. We had maybe six good days of snow scattered throughout the three months. It wasn’t like the days of my childhood, when we would have the white stuff covering the ground from the second week of November all the way to Easter.

Nostalgically, I missed it. I missed seeing the billowy white covering bare tree limbs. I missed the coolness of the window pane I would fog with my breath as I made funny caricatures in the heated mist. I missed seeing the birds sitting on pine trees, the colorful cardinals and blue jays and downy woodpeckers, as they appeared as tiny colored lights at Christmas time.

For the past two years since starting this blog, I’ve whined complained b****ed wished for snow. On my twitter page I ranted bemoaned b****ed wished for snow. On my Facebook page I b****ed b****ed wished for snow.

From the title of this post, you know what I got this year.

Since New Year’s Eve until Sunday of last week, it had snowed, and snowed, and snowed. By estimates for our area, we had from 16 to 24 inches on the ground. All this snowfall reminds me of the BLIZZARD OF 97. It was a significant time in my life.

It was the year where I almost died.

I had booked a full week up at the resort that year. It looked to be a great time coming - plenty of fresh snow to go along with what the resort could make. Excellent temperature for skiing - 20 degrees. My bags were packed. I had a great dinner. I went to bed early for my trip out the next day, listening to the gentle snowfall striking the bedroom window.

Gentle snowfall in Pennsylvania?

I awoke the next morning to find a full-blown whiteout. 24 inches lay on the ground from overnight. Southwestern PA area was now in a state of emergency. The only vehicles allowed on the streets were medical workers, police, and the National Guard.

I rescheduled my reservations for the following week and when the roads reopened I headed to the resort. I skied morning, noon, and night. Personally, I hate night skiing. The slopes were choppier, haphazard, instead of the smooth packed surface at 7:30am. The accident happened Wednesday, three days into my seven-day vacation.

I hit a dip in the slope. My ski went one way as my body went the other. I slammed down awkwardly on my left knee. Pain shot along the entire length.

Luckily, I was near where the lodge and hotel were located. I got to my feet, buckled back into my skis, and gingerly made my way down. That was it for the night. The next day, I went to the ski patrol’s medical building. The guy there wrapped an ace bandage around my knee and helped me back to my room. I spent the rest of my vacation inside the hotel, playing video games and watching local hick bands and renting movies. Boring.

On the seventh day, I checked out. My brother worked at the resort, teaching snowboarding lessons, so he drove. Although the roads were usually bad when heading to the resort, because of the blizzard, the roads were now bad when heading FROM the resort. The snow had delayed truck deliveries with the closures. Countless tractor trailers were trying to get their loads to destinations and still break even for the month. Traffic congestion galore.

We were about six cars back behind a large semi. Whenever there was a break in traffic on the opposing side, a car would madly dash around. This was dangerous in itself because of the steep hills and sharp bends. But those drivers felt confident enough to pass. When our car was finally behind the truck, my brother WAITED. He didn’t want to take the chance. We kept our pace until we hit a main level thruway. Then my brother tried to pass. Our car neared the front of the truck’s cab.

The truck driver pressed down on the gas. He hadn’t done this with any other cars but ours. He floored it. Angry over the driver doing this, my brother floored it.

The road became a drag strip, our high octane racers peeling up the pavement hoping to make the invisible finish line before a passing cop busted our betting party. What should have been an easy few seconds’ go-around now dragged on for too long. Also, the patch of road we were on would soon curve around a hillside.

A truck appeared in the opposing lane. Just like that - a snap of the fingers - the road was clear a moment. Then the next second a semi came around the blind bend. He lay on his horn and braked.

My brother slammed both feet on the brake and twirled the steering wheel to the right. The racing driver still had his foot on the gas of his truck, so he shot past before we could plow into the side of his trailer bed. We swerved entirely across the two lanes and off the side as our car slammed into the deep snowbank. It was half-buried on my side from bumper to bumper.

My brother asked if I was all right. Shaken, I nodded. He got out the car as the trucker from the semi we almost collided with cussed at us. My brother gave an apologetic wave and walked a few feet up to the nearby store. He came back with their shovel and began digging the car out. I could not do much on my bad leg. Once most of the snow was cleared away, he hopped back into the driver’s seat and pulled away from the embankment. He found the nearest parking lot, got out, and checked for damage.

There wasn’t a scratch. Not a dent, or a busted headlight, or a snapped radio antenna.

Well, that’s my tale. I have wonderful memories of the snow, of sled riding and snowball fights and building life-sized igloos. Yet whenever I see a lot of snow on the ground, I’m reminded of the BLIZZARD OF 97.

Next year, remind me not to b**th about the weather so much.


  1. See, I think it's one of those Laws of Relativity, or something like that - No matter where or when you grew up, you always got WAY more snow than anytime since you've been a grown-up. . .

    Once upon a time, way back in my old blog, I posted my own snow stories, including the time we got 42 inches in a week. . .

  2. Probably best to stay home during this kind of weather, but look at all the material you would have missed out on!

  3. WOW .. I have retired 'amazing' as a comment word and just in time, because this was astonishingly good!

  4. You're one of the few people I know who actually like winter a lot. Well, you got your snow. ;) And I'm glad you're alive.

  5. Ohh, Michelle, what a scary time in the car. As you told it I tensed up and felt like I was there with you. And bum on the knee. I'm so glad you both were safe. Hmm, not a winter girl myself, but do feel you on the allergies.

  6. Glad you are moving around again. So, what happened to the dip you hit in the snow? Hope the injuries were not bad.
    Coach O

  7. Michelle...I sit here...shaking in my boots (not snow boots...I live in the South!)...but shaking to think that you ended up in the medical building instead of skiing on the slopes like you had wanted to do...and then I read about the horrible accident. What a 'snow' year for you, my friend. Think 'sunshine and beaches'...
    Come see me. No snow skiing passing trucks and drifting into snowbanks.
    What a story!
    Next winter: no snow for you!

  8. Okay, first of all if you call 24 inches a blizzard, you'd never survive a true blizzard here in Co. Hell, we get 24 inches routinely every winter (and yes, that's in Denver, not the mountains). Blizzard to me means at least double that much.

    Second, skiing in PA? I'd have to see it to believe it. Bring your skis (and courage) our way sometime and you can do some serious skiing. Aspen, Telluride, Loveland. Now that's skiing.

    Still, this was an interesting post, even if I did have to chuckle at it a bit :)

  9. Glad it was a miss, and a good tale! whenever i'm tempted to do something dumb like that i try and remind myself how dumb it is, and how much stupidity can hurt. but. i drive an old pick up. lol. can't drag race in that!

    have you been able to ski much this year?

  10. Ah. I remember storms like that when we lived in Western PA. Of course, now I remember storms like that since we've lived in Eastern MA. Eh.

    I know what you mean about the hills. I bet your stomach was in your throat. (Yeah, I'm all right. Just let me swallow this little bit of bile...)

    Great story, Michelle.


  11. Yikes! What a finish to a lamentable week of being holed up at the lodge. Better luck next time!

  12. You were lucky!

    I too love winter as do my kids.. which is just as well because we've been cold and snowy since the beginning of December!

  13. Back to say .. Congrats on POTW mention from Hilary

  14. Congrats on being nominated by Daryl for POW. I like the snow too, but in moderation. I'm hoping for a good one this weekend and live in Maryland probably not far from you. I used to live in Chester County years ago.

  15. Glad to meet you - good post!

    Hillary & Daryl sent me

    Aloha, new Friend!

    Comfort Spiral

  16. Here, it snowed ONCE all season, and that was barely enough to cover the ground. I live in freaking Canada for a reason. Give back our snow! :)


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