Category Archives: Around The Hill


Recently, as a massive storm moved in to the neighborhood from the north, many of us made last minute trips to the store for extra food and supplies in case the weather made electricity unreliable or travel difficult. A good day to hunker down.

Others of us made their way past stranded vehicles on barely passable roads to spend the day on the highest hill they could find.

On top of Elk Mountain, the partially frozen weather station reported steady winds between 15 and 20 mph. Those of us who have spent time in similar conditions estimated true wind speed at nearly double that. 

1 to 2 inch per hour snow fall amounts driven by wind gusting near 60 mph made it impossible to look into the wind without eye protection.

Snow scrubbed bare to ice in places, deposited feet deep nearby. Unusually corniced, an apparent ocean wave grew throughout the storm.








The recent weather pattern, which is yet to complete, has been very un-February-like. 

Though not as warm as last year’s record breaking days,  except for the trails at Elk, no snow in the neighborhood.

When the panoramic views from the top of the mountain reveal more Spring then Winter, the patterns left in nearby trees by overnight freeze reminds us that we’ll soon see March’s nature, lamb or lion like.

Last Chair

After closing and sweeping trails that won’t be illuminated for night skiing, some of the ski patrol day crew make their way to ride the chair lift one last time for the day.

They’ll wait on top of the mountain at the ski patrol base for the night crew to arrive before skiing their last run down to the locker room.

There, they’ll change some clothing for the ride home, then eat, early to bed, and do it all over again the next day.

Top of Elk Mountain

The top of Elk Mountain is now home to several communications towers.  Years ago, sometimes you could stand outside the small unmanned support buildings, and hear air traffic and other communications.

Not far from where these towers are now, up until the 1960’s a fire tower stood. I remember climbing up the tower stairs as a youngster, and seeing a transit that the ranger would use to pinpoint a fire’s location.

When looking out at the top of the mountain now and seeing how populated the area has become, it’s difficult to imagine that less than a lifetime ago, there were so few people and telephones to merit manning a fire tower.

The transit is now housed at the Clifford Township Historical Society, and can be seen on their website

Ten Below


The kind of cold that demands forbearance. Day after day after day of near and sub-zero temperatures that finds it’s way into our bones, and daily conversations.

Just after finishing opening chores I came off the mountain to take a break in the ski lodge when someone asked “How’s the snow?”

“Good skiin’!” I replied enthusiastically. “Cold. Damn cold.” I thought to myself.

Before chores were over, cold found it’s way between my goggles and hood. Like a dog might snarl before a full bite, cold nipped my cheek, reminding me, warning me, this kind of cold will freeze flesh in a very few moments. 

“What did you have for breakfast, miss?” 

After the words left my mouth, I realized how personal a question that was to ask a total stranger. Maybe even inappropriate.

“Eggs with ham, and cheese.” the woman replied patiently, almost with a hint of contrition in her voice.

“That sounds good, but no bread?” I asked. “No, no bread.”

“Well don’t be shy about having a snack if you feel like it. Pretty cold, you’ll burn it up quick.”

The cold caused me concern. For myself, and anyone else sharing the outdoors in this arctic air.

I didn’t eat lunch in the cafeteria as I usually do.

“Did you eat lunch today?” asked the cafeteria cashier when I saw her in the lodge later in the afternoon.

She seemed satisfied when I recited “Some chips and cheese, two hot dogs on buns, and homemade cookies with cherry stuff on top that someone’s wife had made and sent up to ski patrol base for us to share, and plenty of hot tea to wash it all down.”

More ‘crude but effective’ than ‘healthy’ diet I thought. No matter. Whatever you throw in the furnace on a day like today will burn quick just keeping the animal warm.

“That’s good – you must have good clothing on too.” she said.

“Yes I do – and lot’s of it!”

Riding the lift later, another ski patroller asked me if I knew how many layers he had on. Before I could say anything, he declared “All of them!” I inventoried my own kit and counted seven.

The weather station never reported temperatures warmer then two below zero. A steady and gusty wind kept the windchill hovering between 24 and 27 degrees below zero.

The kind of cold that provokes compassion. The kind of cold that makes you feel lucky and grateful if you have a warm bed and enough heat. 

The kind of cold that makes it obvious how important it is we tend to each other’s, and our own animal’s well being.