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Where To Find The Most Snow In America
Brrrrrrr! Do I hate winter! When I see snow clouds forming and temperatures dipping down to that crucial 32-degree Fahrenheit mark, I know it’s time to wash and deodorized my long johns. Old Man Winter is coming to town and he is always naughty and never very nice. In preparation, I always add on a few pounds, pad my lair, and stock my larder for the long winter nights. I even squirrel away a cache of nuts to hold me over until spring. Bah humbug! I really hate winter. But what I hate most about winter is the snow.
I didn’t always feel this way about snow. As a child, I actually liked snow. I remember the blizzard of ’48 when the snow in New York was plowed and piled so high along the sidewalks that I couldn’t see the cars passing by on the street. In those days, I loved to hear Bing Crosby whistling White Christmas. I still recall how fresh snow and the sound of sleigh bells would trigger the smell of chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Oh, but that was then and now is now. At the age of 18, snow suddenly became my enemy. That's the year I began to drive.
Snow makes me dream about tropical islands, fruity drinks with tiny umbrellas, hula skirts, and getting a lei on the beach. I’ve grown to cringe at the sound of a snow shovel scraping on the sidewalk and I become nauseous from the smell of burning rubber when my car’s tires spin uselessly in a snow bank. And did I mention how frustrated I get when I can’t find my garbage pails in the street after they were buried under five feet of freshly plowed snow? I hate snow so much that I recently made a list of the places in America that have a reputation for attracting the most snow. This way, I figure, I know where not to go. But, heck, if you happen to like snow, then you might want to visit a few of these slush buckets. Better you than me.
Nobody knows more about snowing, the country, and local climate conditions than the US Government. So, naturally, I went to the National Climatic Data Center to learn where the worst snow conditions are usually found. Boring! There was one thing I learned in a hurry. Snow statistics can put me to sleep faster than two Sominex tablets. Within three minutes, my eyelids began to droop, my breathing slowed down, and my head fell over onto my keyboard.
That’s when I had this amazing dream about a fantastic new TV program in which the US Weather Bureau presents their much coveted Snowman awards to places in the country that have the worst weather conditions. Wow! This program would certainly rival the Oscars and would surely do better in the Nielsen ratings than the Annual Emmy Awards. I could see it all so clearly. In my dream, Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric are standing together at the podium. While looking into the camera, Brokaw says, “In the category of Greatest Daily Snowfall between 1892 and 2006,” as he opens the flap of the envelope in his hand. Slowly he says, “And the winner is,” and he pauses again to heighten the suspense. Then he goes on, “And the winner is... Georgetown, Colorado for 63 inches on December 4th, 1913.” Then the orchestra runs through several bars of “Walking In A Winter Wonderland.” What a smash! Big time sponsors like Ivory Snow laundry detergent would love it. By limiting the acceptance speeches, it would easily fit in a two-hour slot.
Katie keeps the show moving right along. “Unfortunately, Georgetown, Colorado couldn’t be with us tonight because of an ongoing federal investigation so I accept this award on George’s behalf.” She shows her great talent by jumping ahead to the next cue card. “And now in the category of Greatest Total Monthly Snowfall between 1903 and 1948.... The winner is ......Tamarack, California for dumping 313 inches during March 1907.” The audience is on its feet. The applause is deafening. Preparing to fade into a commercial break, the camera moves back for a wide shot. Tom and Katie are totally unaware of the new angle. The image of them pinching each other under the podium is broadcast to the nation.
I didn’t wake up until the following morning. As I sipped my first cup of coffee, I made a mental note to talk to my shrink about my dreams. I’ve had some really strange images in my head lately.
As you know, snow can be pretty bad when it’s falling, but it really becomes a headache when it refuses to go way. Imagine all the overpaid government employees who had to measure the depth of the snow every day on Mount Rainer in Washington State. Thanks to their loyalty, dedication and skill, the federal government has been able to establish, to the benefit of the entire country, that the Greatest Daily Snow Depth of 292 inches was achieved at the Paradise Ranger Station on April 12, 1974. Can you believe this? The government can’t account for several hundred billion dollars in TARP stimulus money dispensed by the Treasury Department in 2008-09 but it knows how deep the snow was on Mount Rainer in 1974. I’m impressed!
If there is one place in this country I will avoid winter or summer, it is Thompson Pass, not far from Valdez, Alaska. There is so much snow there, and the temperatures get so cold, that when Frosty the Snowman died, no one did anything for seven days but sit and shiver. Located 2800 feet above sea level in the Chugach Mountains, it is the snow capital of America. The annual snowfall averages 551 inches. This is definitely not my kind of weather. Over the winter of 1952-53, 974 inches of snow fell, a record in the state for the most snow falling in one location. It snowed every single day for five days in 1955 to set another state record of 175 inches of fresh snow on the 5 consecutive days ending on December 31st. It logged 62 inches on December 29 alone. Another Happy New Year's Eve in Thompson Pass! Like nowhere else on earth, the marine conditions off the Port of Valdez keep the snow clinging to the steep 40-50 degree terrain and provides prime skiing conditions on the Eastern slopes well into summer.
So, if you're hooked on snow sports or history, you might check out Thompson Pass the next time you are in Sarah Palin’s part of the country. The Ahtna people used Thompson Pass long before the white man showed up in 1899 to mark a trail over the mountains to guide the miners headed for the gold fields of the Klondike. It later became the route of the cables strung by the Washington-Alaska Military Cable and Telegraph System. Automobile traffic through Thompson Pass was limited to only the summer months until a clever foreman working for a freight company came up with the idea in 1950 to use snowplows to keep the pass open all year round. The state paved over the gravel roadbed for the first time in 1957 and the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline System came through in the early 1970’s.
If you like winter sports, by the way, heliskiing and snowboarding are very popular on the slopes of Thompson Pass. Those who like more adventure in their life should take note that several fun seeking tourists die every year in avalanches. Be sure to consult with the Alaska Avalanche Forecast Center in Valdez about their latest avalanche danger report before you head out for a fun day on the slopes.
Now, if this is your idea of a winter paradise, hey, don’t let me hold you back.