Tomorrow it will be eight degrees for a high here in Watersmeet. A nice breeze will make it less toasty, though. I’m going skiing.

Nothing unusual about that. I’ve been out cross country skiing on 10 of the last 12 days. I love winter. I love cold weather.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with people who retreat to places like Florida this time of year. If a person lacks the perseverance, the pride, the tenacity, the determination, the endurance, the can-do spirit, the ingenuity, the courage and the overall good character to stick it out through a complete Upper Midwest winter, well, they deserve our sympathy and, maybe, a 12-step program. It’s their loss.

What concerns me is that the character-building that comes with cold weather may be denied to future generations. Almost all of the many sound arguments about the dangers of human-caused global warming focus on increased natural disasters, like flooding and wildfires, and on economic dislocations as growing seasons and rainfall amounts shift. Those are all very real and tangible, but very few people talk about the cultural impacts of warmer winters.

My friends at Wheel & Sprocket, a chain (pun intended) of bike shops in southern Wisconsin have now, for the first time in their 50 year history, stopped selling cross country ski equipment. The snow is just too infrequent down there. I used to love skiing at Blue Mound State Park and Indian Lake County Park, but now I’m able to do that maybe one in five years. Last year was a rare good year for skiing in Dane County, but this year is back to what has become normal, which is to say crummy. Hence, I’m spending a lot of time in the U.P.

My friends Jordy Jordahl, Brad Feltz and I on the trails in the Ottawa National Forest last month.

Same goes for snowmobiling, which is now mostly confined to areas north of Highway 8, except for exceptional years. I’m a silent sports guy, but when I hear snowmobiles in the distance from my ski trails, I don’t get annoyed anymore. It sounds like economic survival to me for the businesses I enjoy up here. All those snowmobilers will be buying gas and staying at hotels and crowding into supper clubs in the evenings. My own choice of prime rib specials tomorrow night at a half dozen supper clubs within a half hour drive is brought to me courtesy of all those folks in insulated bib overalls sitting at the bar. Cheers.

But here again I find myself drifting (another pun intended) into the hard economic realities, when I mean to focus on the soft stuff. I just enjoy the snow and the cold and the drifts for what they are, even if they didn’t mean cash for businesses in the north. I love splitting maple logs for my fires. I love the feeling of thick wool coats and blankets. I love the taste of a manhattan (with walnut bitters) and sharp cheddar cheese and sausage (venison when I can get it) in front of that fire as the wind howls outside.

And, in fact, I love the feeling of spring when it arrives as it should (up here in the U.P.) in late May. By then it feels like I’ve earned it. Seasons — full seasons — are one of the great pleasures of living in this part of the world.

There aren’t really any climate deniers anymore, in the sense that nobody can deny the real impacts of a warming planet. And even the debate over whether it’s human-caused is starting to wane. Former full deniers have now retreated back to the argument that it can’t be helped and some of it might even be good. Who doesn’t like shorter winters?

Let me raise my hand to that. I love winter and the loss of weeks of it at either end is a tragedy just as real as flooding and fires.

Welcome to the 358th day of consecutive posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

3 thoughts on “Cold

  1. A kindred spirit. I too love winter. I despise humidity, and in winter I can put on as many layers of clothing as needed. In most places that I frequent there is a limit to how many layers I take off when it is hot and muggy. Yes, the cold is good for building character, and some of indeed may be known as characters by our friends.


  2. Dave,

    I concur about the 4 seasons. I was born/raised in Madison. Then moved to Texas (to escape the cold winters) in my late 20s. I moved back after 16 or so years. Partly, because I married a Texan who hates the heat and loves the cold. Spoiler, she does not find the Madison winters cold enough. And because I truly missed Madison, the four seasons, and the beauty of Wisconsin. Plus, so many people moving into D/FW. Sooner or later the water is going to run out down there.


  3. If the snowfall is inadequate in the Home Of The Nimrods, a short 55 mile/88.5 km jaunt west on U.S. Hwy 2 will get you to Hurley, WI, Where Hwy 51 Ends And The Fun Begins.

    There, they measure snow in FEET, (with an F!). As of Groundhog Day, the Iron County Miner (Published Weekly/Read Daily!) reports 9 feet/2.7 meters thus far; even money they’ve added 18 inches/.46 meters since then.

    “And, in fact, I love the feeling of spring when it arrives as it should (up here in the U.P.) in late May.”

    We never go up until ~ June 21st (our anniversary) when Peony Season (a distant memory in these here parts) is peaking and you can still get fresh Asparagus at the Iron County Farmer’s Market.

    Five years ago, Weber Lake (Anderson TWSP) had to cancel its late May Spring Kid’s Fishing Day. Why? Frozen solid!


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