Sunday, January 15, 2012

Montana Winter vs. Michigan Winter

In the fall after I decided to accept the position at Lone Mountain and spend a winter out here, I was feeling a little intimidated by Montana winters.  People mentioned it got down to -40° and the wind was vicious.  Plus, it lasts from November until the end of April, with snowfall certainly possible in September and May or even June.  I was not sure I liked winter that much.

Well it turns out Michigan winters are way worse than Montana winters!  Let me explain.  Sure, it is colder out here on average-most days the temperature hits single digits at least at night-but it is a dry cold so you do not feel it as much.  It turns out -40° is very rare.  Lone Mountain Ranch is located in a small valley within the valley of Big Sky, and so is sheltered from the wind.  Most of the time when I walk to work it is cold-really cold-but very still and peaceful.

On the flip side, Michigan winters seem to be all about the howling wind-it does not help that Benton Harbor is on Lake Michigan-and wet snow blowing in your face.  Or freezing rain.  Humid cold gets through to your bones, while the cold out here is a little more gentle.  So far, I have not had to break out my Mad Bomber hat because it has not been that windy.  The five minute walk to work has never been the struggle into the howling mouth of Mother Nature that my walk to class in Holland was at times last year.  I can remember so many times when it would be snowing sideways and feeling like -10° for that half mile walk.

One point for Montana for having more gentle winters.  One point for Lake Michigan for being beautiful during the winter, even if it is harsh.

And another thing about the humidity-shoveling a foot of "cold smoke" as they call the dry powder that falls out here, is like shoveling feathers.  One foot of Michigan snow is like shoveling bricks.  I will always remember the first time I tore into some new snowfall around my car, exerting enough calculated force to toss a load of bricks, but getting feathers instead.  My shovel flew up and almost hit me in the face.

One point for Montana Cold Smoke, which I should also mention is a fantastic scotch ale brewed out here.  Beats the pants off Moose Drool in my opinion.

I also need to say something else about the cold: people out here do not mind it.  If you live here, you have accepted it.  In Michigan half of my friends and it seemed the general populace really did not enjoy winter.  To them, it was what stood between them and another summer of fun.  Sure, people here remark about the cold, but it is just that, a remark-"Wow, -5°, extra cold today."  Chit chat, small talk.  No one complains or whines, which is nice.  Out here, some people even like the winter better than the summer.

Michiganders do have it tougher than the people out here though: the sun actually shines here in the winter!  I would say it is has been sunny here three out of four days on average, whereas people in Michigan joke that the sun does not shine again until spring.  Sadly accurate.

One point for Montanans, for not complaining about but actually welcoming, begging for more snow.  One point for Michiganders for waiting 4 months for the sun to come out.  Sunshine really does make people happier.

Hurray for sunshine & blue sky, mountains, and beautiful, endless trails!

Who can blame them?  Once winter starts out here, it is here to stay, which means all of the great winter activities like downhill skiing, nordic skiing, skate skiing, and snowshoeing can be enjoyed from the end of November through at least the end of March.  Out here, you are surrounded by the endless playground that is the mountains.  Needless to say, the ski hills-well mountains-out here are a little more fun than the ones back in Michigan.

One point since mountains are greater than hills and two points for all of the sports you can do for a couple of months without the constant question of "Sure, I would love to do that this weekend, but will there be enough snow?"

In summary, Montana winters 6, Michigan winters 2.  Clear cut winner.

Now if you'll excuse me, I am off to ski a mountain.  Adios.

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