Editor’s Note: The following essay was originally featured on THE ROCK FIGHT podcast and is available to listen to in the player below.
Today I’m picking a fight with Winter. Because winter does nothing but gaslight us into defending it and someone needs to speak up!
I’m sick of the bullshit, winter people.
The charade needs to end and even the most ardent snow sport enthusiast needs to just admit it…warm weather is simply better.
Now if you love winter and you don’t know me, I can hear your knee jerk reaction from here. “Shut the hell up, San Diego guy!” you’re likely yelling at your phone or lap or into your airpods or car stereo, “what do you know about winter?!” Well, let me tell you.
I grew up in Lancaster, PA whose claim to fame in the winter months is how close we would get to real actual snowstorms that simply turned to rain. And as Snowmiser himself once said, ‘who needs that?’.
Readers of Calvin & Hobbes may remember a time when Calvin, sitting on his toboggan with no snow around just waiting and hoping for Ullr to unleash a foot of fresh powder when he remarks to Hobbes (and I’m paraphrasing here):
If I were in charge we wouldn’t see the grass between October and May.
And as a kid living in a place where forecasted snow rarely came to fruition, I felt the same way.
My family weren’t skiers or even winter hikers but I loved it when we would get snow. Anytime the weather worked in our favor and that rain/snow line drifted a little further south, we made the most of every inch we got. Snow Forts, sledding, snowballs, more sledding, football in the snow, playing in the woods in the snow, even more sledding…my brothers, friends and I were out in it until it melted away in a gross, slushy mess and my mom was usually right there with chocolate chip cookies and brewed swiss miss.
My memories of snow from my youth are downright rockwellian.
As I got older my personal ambitions shifted north. Literally. Most east coasters with an eye on moving away look west but I was laser focused on New England. New Hampshire specifically. There were a myriad of reasons for this and one of them? You guessed it, snow. I wanted to go somewhere known for its brutally cold and snowy winters.
I wasn’t looking to ski or snowboard, that started once I got there, but it was because moving somewhere warm sounded lame and snow was badass. The west coast felt like it was a galaxy away and heading to the south where it was warm and humid? Gross. I wanted to be seen as a hardy New Englander.
And my pursuit of winter didn’t end in the northeast. Eventually we got over the hump and started moving all around the country first to Colorado (inside scoop: majorly overrated) and eventually to Utah (inside scoop: somehow both over and underrated) and it was there, living in Park City that I finally got ‘Calvin’s wish’ of not seeing the grass from October until May.
Living in Utah allowed me to finally indulge in all the snowsports I wanted. Skiing of course but also tubing, snowshoeing whatever it was all on the table. We lived close enough to the lifts that I could bug out over lunch, make some turns and be back in the same amount of time it would take to hit the gym.
But even as my love for sliding downhill on sticks grew, it has never come close to my love for trail running or mountain biking. And while there were some winters where the trails in Salt Lake remained open and desert trails were only a few hours away, I wanted to head out of my driveway and hit the trails by my house. However, due to Utah’s epic winters, that was only an option for 3.5 months. But even still, I remained steadfast in my defense of winter.
Until we moved to Seattle.
Everything about Seattle was exciting. Seattle is my all time favorite city and being at sea level meant we wouldn't spend chunks of the year being bogged down with colds, flu and strep throat. It was cool to be back where pro sports were a thing. And my love affair with coffee would flourish. My only reservation was moving to a place where snow in the backyard was even less common than what I had experienced in my childhood home.
As it turns out, I didn’t miss the snow because you can access snow year around thanks to all of those glaciated volcanoes in the area. And in the winter the mountains get tons of snow but the mild climate on the west side of the Cascades means you can run and bike in shorts all season long.
But no more snow blowing or shoveling. No more icy steps. The balance seemed like it couldn’t be topped.
It seemed that way, until we then moved to Southern California where snow and skiing is the same distance away as anywhere I lived aside from Utah and where we get six months of fall.
Yeah fall. You know, the season that everyone calls their favorite season? 60s and 70’s during the day, 40s at night the ultimate shorts and sweatshirt weather? Yeah, it’s like that here from November til May. It’s fucking glorious.
I think I speak for us all when I say while we enjoy any form of human powered adventure sports we certainly have our preferences. Force me to rank them all and as much fun as I have skiing, it’s at the bottom of the list and if you forced me to kick one out there is no way I’d keep skiing over mountain biking or surfing.
But even if your ‘die on a mountain’ (see what I did there) sport is skiing, why put yourself through all the seasonal bullshit if you don’t have to?
Winter's dirty secret is that for all the fun times you can have on snow, the cost is the time sucking inconvenience of snow removal, of needing boots and heavy coats to go outside for the most basic tasks. Frosty and dirty windshields and that aggravating feeling when you realize you’re out of washer fluid. High heating bills and being inside so much that illnesses are unavoidable. You can put the upside of winter sports ahead of all the others, but you can’t argue that any of this stuff is particularly fun.
If you grew up and still live where it’s cold you simply don’t know or can’t appreciate how amazing it is wearing jorts in February. Like for the whole month. Stepping outside in January in flip flops. Walking out of your house without worrying about grabbing your coat or checking your weather app to see if you can get away with just a light puffy. None of that. You just…leave.
I am still amazed at how freeing it is to not have to worry about the weather.
Winter has gaslit us all into thinking it’s a worthy season for things beyond bombing down mountains on snow. The winter PR machine will cite snuggly sweaters, pumpkin spice lattes, stick to your ribs soups and thick, dark stouts as all necessary to a balanced life. The yin to summer’s yang. But having sat outside in a t-shirt for Thanksgiving, Christmas dinner and to watch the Super Bowl I can tell you that it is hands down, so much better than a crackling fire or thick socks with slippers.
Since moving down here we’ve started a tradition of heading to Big Bear the week before Christmas to get a little snowy mountain time to help make sense of Christmas decorations, which to be honest, don’t work at all in a mediterranean or tropical climate. The novelty of 20 degree mornings, snowballs and icy doorsteps is super fun and a reminder of winters spent in northern locales.
Then we drive home. And pulling into our driveway after waking up and leaving in a winter wonderland I can’t sprint into the house fast enough to swap out snow boots for flip flops, puffy coats for a t-shirt and to lay in the sun in the backyard, thinking fondly back on turns made the day before and the surf session in my immediate future.
I’m sorry winter.
Your time is up.
We’re hip to your game.
You had me convinced for over 40 years. 40 YEARS. But I see through you now. You’re always worth a visit…but warm summer breezes are what wins this rock fight.