March 15 will see the beginning of our annual “spring” carnival, an event we call Thaw Di Gras.
One of the traditional events during this celebration is a snow-carving contest.
Some years it’s too cold for people to put in the time necessary to make a snow sculpture. Some years there isn’t enough snow. That won’t be a problem this year.
The city contractor has been busily hauling the stuff away from the streets for weeks now, but there will be plenty left to pound into carving blocks.
I’ll wager, however, that there won’t be many creations as impressive as those hanging off many of the roofs around town.
Businesses here have had to clean off their roofs to avoid leaks and those sudden surges I like to call roofalanches. But lots of homes and buildings around town don’t need to worry about public safety and can just let the built-up roof frosting slowly extrude over the eaves until it finally breaks off.
It can be surprising how long that takes.
The snow next to anyone’s roof tends to pack down and harden into something like ice, especially if it’s got 30 to 50 centimetres of newer snow sitting on top of it. Most of our snow is pretty fluffy when it comes down, but the combination of the breeze and increasing amounts of sunlight compacts the surface layers and turns it into something resembling Styrofoam.
Gravity does the rest. The inner layers of the snow covering eventually head for the ground, sliding across the ice layer and under the firmer surface until they seem to squirt out from the roof lines — after which they are affected by the same sun and breeze that hardened the layer above them.
The most striking example of this around town is the garage next to Stringer House, the Anglican Church rectory. The snow load there has sagged down over the open garage door like a blanket draped over the front of the building.
I’ve touched it. It’s quite firm and won’t fall for some time yet, unless it gets whacked with a shovel.
There’s a similar, but not quite so dramatic, overhang at the Dawson office of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board office, and another at Klondike Kate’s.
These overhangs look as if someone has been having fun with a large bowl of white icing.
Look closely at any of these and you can determine the individual thicknesses of the various snowfalls as if they were rings on a tree. The thickness tells you how much snow fell a given time relative to other snow lines on the same overhang.
At Berton House, the alignment of the benches and interpretive plaques in the viewing station at the foot of the lawn make it look as if a couple of snowmen have arrived to take a look at the house where Dawson’s famous native son spent his early years.
On a sunny day it’s fun to wander around town and see what interesting sights the changing season provides.
After 32 years teaching in rural Yukon schools, Dan Davidson retired from that profession but continues writing about life in Dawson City.