This is a special column just for you Cheechakos. If you are a Sourdough, you already know this stuff. Flip the page and you will find a delightful column by Rob Millar on how to barbecue tofu.
OK, here is your first “winter lesson”: when someone said to you, “Have you seen Grey Mountain?”, you should not have been offended. Yes, of course you’ve seen Grey Mountain. I mean, c’mon, it’s a mountain. Kinda hard to miss a mountain when it’s right there in the middle of town.
But what they were really saying was, first, “I thought you were a Sourdough” (a real compliment) and, more to the point, “Winter is getting closer and closer.”
You see, those of us who live in Whitehorse know that Old Man Winter lives on top of Grey Mountain and he slowly reaches his foulness toward the city a little bit every day.
Every day, we get to see it get closer and we know it will be even closer tomorrow. And, when it is, indeed, closer the next morning, we say to each other, “Have you seen Grey Mountain?” This is usually followed by words of comfort that are neither meant nor believed.
Unspoken is the fact that Teslin is probably already a goner.
You will never hear someone respond with, “Whoo hoo! I’m going to get my ice fishing gear ready!” or “I can hardly wait until I can catch snowflakes on my tongue!”
Do you want to know why? Because November and December are not the ideal ice fishing season; and having snowflakes slammed into the back of your throat on 55 km/h winds loses that sense of fun real quick.
Sure, snowflakes fall gently to the earth, but then the winds catch it and whip them at you and over your parka’s collar, through the layers of fleece and kicks in that trapdoor of your long johns and up your … oh! … my goodness.
The snow (the horror, the horror) keeps falling. I remember when it used to snow only twice a week. Now it is every day, and if you don’t shovel it off the sidewalk right away, it turns into the hardest ice imaginable.
“How can ice be hard or not hard?” you ask. You’re a Cheechako, you wouldn’t understand. Just realize that early winter around here is like a dinner served cold, like a shoe that pinches; like a boss that yells, like Elisabeth Hasselbeck when she talks.
And it is dark; it is oh so dark. December is the darkest month.
So, you are now wondering: Why do people live here when you have snow on the ground six to seven months of the year?
It’s because we can tolerate November and December since we are exhausted from the hectic summer and we welcome an excuse to cocoon indoors. And we can tolerate January because we are exhausted from Christmas.
But February, March and April are your reward for putting up with November, December and January.
The snow is soft and white and looks like a Christmas card everywhere you look. The sun now lasts a decent amount of time each day and warms you up when you trust it enough to open your jacket to it.
All of a sudden, the Yukon will be peopled not by parka-clad gnomes who shuffle from doorway to doorway, but instead by sporty hipsters in their brightly coloured jackets and wrap-around sunglasses.
We become the beautiful butterflies that emerge from the serviceable cocoons of Thinsulate and nylon shells.
Once you have survived early winter and rejoiced with late winter, lived the yin and yang of this place and acknowledged that the long nights are “cozy” and not “depressing”, then you may call yourself … a Sourdough.