You call THAT a snowstorm?

As wind-driven sleet pelted our faces the other day, my son Tom and I schussed on cross-country skis, scurrying to get in a couple miles before the icy precipitation, which began as the region’s first winter snowfall, depressingly turned to rain.

“Here we are in mid-February, skiing for the first time this season,” I said, shaking my head. “You never know, the way things have been going, this could be our only chance.”

“Hate to think that, but you may be right,” Tom replied.

Only a couple inches had fallen, barely enough to keep our skis from scraping on the ground, so we detoured to a well-frozen section of a favorite lake that had been ideal for ice staking a week earlier.

With the forecast calling for snow and sleet turning to rain, the ice soon would be unsuitable for skating or skiing, which is why we were in such a rush.

Sure enough, the next day the temperature shot up above 40 degrees, and most of what hadn’t washed away melted in bright sunshine. Stretches of open water began to spread.

Had we realized last November that a snowstorm just before Thanksgiving would be the last time there’d be any significant accumulation for nearly three months we might have dusted off our skis then. Who knew?

I’m aware that some people are relieved this winter has been snowless and agree that shoveling isn’t all that much fun, nor is sharing the road with crazed drivers who don’t seem to understand that you need to slow down in icy conditions.

All the same, to them I say: Why don’t you move to Florida? What’s the point of living in New England if, for a few months out of the year, you can’t go cross-country skiing, build a snow fort, ride a toboggan or simply embrace the majesty of a dazzling white landscape?

For outdoor enthusiasts in the region, this has been the winter of our discontent: Almost no snow, only sporadically safe ice, and so much rain that many hiking trails have become a muddy mess.

Now, with spring only a month away and no major storms on the horizon, we can’t afford to be too fussy about conditions, which is why Tom and I were willing to put up with ice pellets to the face.

Skiing on a snow-covered lake is somewhat different from skiing on a forest trail.

For one thing, we couldn’t plant our poles to push off — the tips skittered rather than dug in — so you we relied more on our legs to more forward. There were no hills to power up or shoot down, either: everything as flat as a pancake.

We also didn’t worry about slamming into trees on tight curves — we cruised along, straight as an arrow, with no ruts, rocks, roots, bumps, rough spots or oncoming ski traffic to dodge. There was nobody else out on the lake, and I dare say at that precise moment possibly nobody else on skis in all of southeastern Connecticut.

Our short outing may have lacked the grandeur of gliding through evergreens while inhaling the heady scent of balsam, but hey, it wasn’t too bad.

“As good as being on any groomed trail,” Tom remarked.

Eventually, though, after we zipped up and back half a dozen times, the sleet started to sting. Time to call it a day.

I hope that wasn’t it for skiing in the region this year. Of course, we could always drive to northern New England, but it’s much more satisfying to hop on skis right from the front door, or at least after short trips to such favorite haunts as Pachaug State Forest in Voluntown and Bluff Point Coastal Reserve in Groton.

Come on, weather gods, let’s have at least one rip-roaring snowstorm — it doesn’t even have to be a blizzard — before the crocuses start popping up.



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