Sean McHugh | Eclectic Autodidact: Embracing the 'new' New England winter


Well folks, I think it's time to give up on our concept of winter. A bleak, brown season with the occasional apocalyptic ice storm is going to be the new normal, and clinging to nostalgia for the peaceful snow dappled winters of yore with their regular and gentle flurries is only going to hurt us more. And while we could crank up the snow machines at the ski resorts, sooner or later we're going to have to face the fact that they are the precipitation equivalent of a comb over and we've been bald for a while now. I say it's time to move forward and embrace the future and the new paradigm of Winter 2.0.

Now, this may come as a blow to many in the county. A major portion of our local economy depends on snow, that wedge of the pie chart that doesn't say "Leaves with colors other than green" or "Plays about dysfunctional families meeting at summer homes to divulge painful secrets." I think that we can get through this with a few minor changes in focus.

First of all, we'll need to invent a new mountain-based winter sport to replace skiing. (We don't need to replace snowboarding as that is not its own sport, it's just skiing with one ski. We don't have a different name for running if you only wear one shoe.) It has to be unnecessarily dangerous enough to attract the extreme sports crowd, yet expensive enough that rich people can make a hobby of buying the equipment and clogging up coffee shops with it. Also it should ideally be something we can split into two variations, one exciting and quick, the other tedious and excruciating. Then we can argue about which one is the real sport and which is for poseurs. I'm thinking of some sort of free-form zip lining.

Next we need to come up with something to replace the picturesque snow-covered New England winter image. My thought is we double down on ice. The new winter scenery will be all about ice dappled trees and elaborate icicles. Ice-peepers will come in droves to look at our frozen forests, and unlike the leaves, we can go out at night with a hose to ensure the trees will be appropriate for viewing in the morning. While we're at it, we'll want to paint our houses colors that will make the icicles pop more and start pulling the insulation out of our roofs to make them more conducive to icicle formation.

This can also buy us time for when global warming renders outdoor ice obsolete as well and we have to switch to rain. We can spend the next few years steadily covering our buildings in fancy rain spouts so when ice is a thing of the past, we've have cities full of quirky draws: rain spouts that shoot water in crazy loops, gargoyles that spit water, pipes with chimes that make the water play classical music.

We need to stop thinking of snow as a given, and start thinking of it as a rare treat, so that we can charge tourists to go on snow safaris where we drive them around the county looking for snowflakes like an upside down whale watch. "Keep your eyes peeled!" We'll say to a van full of flatlanders with binoculars trained on the sky. "Snow could start at any moment!" They'll wonder at our curb side snow banks, unaware that they are mostly just slush and gravel.

Managing expectations is going to be key. Snow-covered New England is such an archetypical image that we need to work hard to alter that in people's minds. First, we'll have all the local museums "restore" paintings of wintertime scenes by coloring in the snow fields while we Photoshop old photographs. Finally, we will seek out and destroy every snow globe on earth.

The last item is the problematic issue of Christmas. We are going to have to throw out a lot of traditional images here. Instead of a sleigh pulled by reindeer, Saint Nick is going to bring presents in a kayak pulled by penguins (as global temperatures and sea levels continue to rise, we can switch the penguins out for harp seals, then dolphins, and finally the giant jellyfish that fill the seas of the future). His famous red outfit will transition from an overcoat to a wetsuit, and if you're good, his bag of toys will include a new set of expensive carabineers so you can hit the zip line slopes with your friends over winter break.


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