Maybe it’s just inevitable. We began 2015 talking about how much snow we had, we’ll start 2016 talking about how much snow we have, and we’ll spend a lot of time the next 12 months talking about how much snow we need — in other words, the same conversation we’ve been having since people started settling here. For a community whose economy is still largely driven by summer conditions, we remain obsessed with winter conditions.
There are good reasons for that. Winter affects the rest of the year a lot more than the rest of the year affects winter. We need snow for the winter recreation economy that sustains us, for the runoff in the spring that helps mitigate drought conditions, for the seasonal demarcations so important to our circadian rhythms.
For the past couple of years, we have looked forward to winter’s arrival for another reason: snowfall, we’re told, is the only thing that will finally damp down all the remaining hot spots from the summer’s fires. Unlike hard rain, heavy snow doesn’t cause mudslides or floods. It comes down gradually, and melts gradually.
Between snow’s advance and retreat, the year proceeds along less-predictable lines. Much of what occurs is what we call “news.” It’s our job to chronicle the events — human-generated or natural, noteworthy or trivial, surprising or expected, fleeting or enduring — around which our lives evolve in this remote but lively corner of the world.
As I was compiling an admittedly skeletal summary of Methow Valley’s past 12 months for this week’s newspaper, I was struck by how many stories seem to have long cycles — often for legal, procedural or bureaucratic reasons. Things take time to resolve.
Then there are the things we could not anticipate or foresee, or even mentally prepare for. The deaths of three firefighters in August stunned and saddened us beyond expression. We may never fully come to terms with it, and perhaps we should not.
In a broader context, it’s always interesting to me, as I page through our bound volumes of Methow Valley News issues going back more than a century, how many Methow stories have an almost perpetual presence.
They are the ones you would expect — about land use, recreational use policies, resource management, local and county government issues, development challenges, economic ups and downs. Forty years on, Winthrop’s Westernization issues still make the headlines. The proposed copper mining exploration at Flagg Mountain seems to recycle periodically. Planning arguments never seem to end.
On the other hand, 2015 was the first time the U.S. Army suggested it would like to conduct high-altitude training for helicopter pilots in our yard (or over our yards). Fire prevention, firefighting protocols and post-fire recovery have been regular topics for decades, but not like they have the past two years. Never before have our local medical clinics been part of much larger organizations based outside the valley.
So who knows what will come along in 2016? I doubt there’s a Nostradamus among us who can prognosticate with something approaching accuracy. But I’m willing to predict this: No matter what else happens, we’ll always be talking about snow.
Coming in 2016
We have several projects in the works over the next few months to help launch the new year. If you would like to lend your support as an advertiser, or suggest information that should be included, please let us know. Here’s what we’re up to:
- In a couple of weeks, we will be doing expanded special coverage on the new facilities at the Winthrop Ice & Sports Rink, a remarkable community project that will have a positive long-term impact.
- In the very near future, we will produce a magazine-style special publication that will include all eight parts of Don Reddington’s series on living with Alzheimer’s disease, plus other material about additional information, resources and support that are available.
- We are already working hard on the follow-up publication to our popular Trial By Fire magazine, which we will publish in early spring. Your participation is encouraged.