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Wednesday, September 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Ammi Midstokke: Snowbirds and the science of seasons

Ammi Midstokke is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review writing about living off the grid. (The Spokesman-Review / SR)
Ammi Midstokke is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review writing about living off the grid. (The Spokesman-Review / SR)
By Ammi Midstokke For The Spokesman-Review

I don’t know why, but I’ve somehow been raised to think that snowbirds were some kind of less-hardy folk or people who suffered from the consumption.

I clustered them together with their RVs and Arizona homes and visits to their distant cousins for entire seasons as a subculture of subpar, weather-sensitive humans. When it gets too cold, they scuttle south. When the soil gets parched there, they come back up here to enjoy a summer they did not earn.

That’s right.

When summer finally gets here, maybe next year or the year after that, it will be mostly because I shoveled and plowed all the snow away. You’re welcome.

And to everyone else out there on their 984th pass of their driveway, thanks to you, too. Because of your hard work, your tireless toiling away with shovels, snow blowers, plows, salt, perhaps an investment in the igloo industry, April may arrive on schedule. For now though, all bets are off.

“Don’t take this the wrong way,” I ask my snowbird friend in Mexico, “but what are you wearing?”

I had just come in from an attempt to launch my plow rig off the side of the mountain, as if they’d made a Siberian version of “Thelma and Louise.” I survived, but my pants had filled with so much snow, water was dripping into my boots and threatening to freeze again.

“Shorts,” he said.

I cried a little on the inside. I couldn’t bear to ask, but I bet he just had flip-flops on his feet.

There are things I like about winter, but that probably has more to do with a kind of submissive acceptance of living on a round planet that orbits the sun than being excited about snow, frostbite and watching my firewood pile diminish. This winter, I have mostly liked fantasizing about tropical islands and the kind of refreshing sea water that wakes one up after a pina colada-induced nap. Which is what I assume snowbirds are doing all the time.

Actually, what I think they are doing is playing cards with each other and laughing at what suckers we are up here, moving all the snow for them before they get back.

“My neighbor almost got a place in Baja,” they say, “but I warned him about the crime and told him he could borrow my Snow Hog any time.”

Equally, we wintering folk cram our social media accounts with pictures of us skiing the fresh pow, moose frolicking in our front yards, and celebrating the one January day of Kavu blue sky. We want the snowbirds to think we’re having just as much fun as they are, only with Gore-Tex and hot apple cider.

“How’s the weather up there?” my friend asks. “Glorious!” I say. “It’s like Narnia, only everyone is on skis and next to the garage we built a heated ice fortress with a full bar and polar bear pelts where we laugh by the fire and play cribbage and our mascara never runs because it’s dry heat. Also, there are no bugs.”

When I hang up, I pull on my expedition-grade mittens, my down coat and my wool hat, and tromp back out to my snowplow. I’ve been earning my summer for over eight hours today. My hands are frozen into a curled position, my eyebrows brittle with frost. The waning daylight will force my retreat soon enough and I’ll find myself perched by the wood stove, attempting to incinerate the hairs on my leg (winterer ladies grow them out for warmth), and looking for cheap flights to Belize.

Incidentally, if you have a spare room in your Virgin Islands time share or need someone to crew your sailboat, let me know. Or maybe I can just borrow your snowblower while you’re gone.

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at

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