Tony Dobrowolski: Business of winter
You may have noticed that it snowed on Friday. Welcome to winter!
Or maybe I should say, welcome to the real winter. With the holidays behind us, snowfall and its removal take on a whole different meaning.
Snow in December is wrapped up in all that mystical, magical Christmas-style stuff. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, jingle bells, sleigh rides and all that.
Snow after the holidays conjures up images of bone-chilling, mind-numbing cold, hazardous driving conditions and the type of biting wind that can freeze your chestnuts no matter how much you try to warm them.
If you're a Berkshire native, or have lived in an area where cold, snowy winters are the standard, like the upper Midwest, or Canada, where I resided for four-and-a-half years, you're ready for this type of climate. If you're originally from an area where the climate is warm, and haven't spent the cold season here yet, you have my sympathies.
A lot of moaning and groaning comes with a cold winter, but in the Berkshires the season also includes a financial element. Steady snowfall means plenty of work for snow plow operators, those who operate downhill and cross-country ski areas, enterprises that sell snow removal equipment, and restaurants that cater to the outdoor crowd.
Tourism is a big industry in the Berkshires, but most of the publicity tends to focus on the area's cultural attractions and the venues like Tanglewood that are only open in the summer. That's understandable because it's where the big bucks are. But the Berkshires has more than its share of winter tourism areas.
Is there any other area of this size in New England outside of Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine that contains five downhill ski areas, with a sixth (Berkshire East) just outside the county? There's also a plethora of cross-country ski areas, both in the county or just outside of it, including two that can actually make their own snow (Cranwell Resort in Lenox and Prospect Mountain in Woodford, Vt.).
While we're on the subject of uniqueness, how many places outside of the Berkshires can actually say they have an ice skating rink that is located on the third floor of a building in the middle of a city (the Pittsfield Boys & Girls Club on Melville Street).
There's also the popular rope tow at Osceloa Park in Pittsfield, which had planned to open on Saturday, but didn't because of an electrical problem. It it due to open soon.
For techies, snow allows you to use all those winter gadgets and apps that measure snowfall depth or analyze weather trends. Without enough white stuff on the ground, a lot of those toys will lay around unused.
I've been here long enough to have experienced winters in the Berkshires with either too much or not enough snow. And despite all the complications snowfall can bring, I'd rather see too much of the white stuff than not enough.
Snowless winters are strange around here. Everything is brown and frozen, as if waiting for a snowfall that never seems to come. Ski areas suffer -- it's not much fun going down the middle of the only run that's open with your jacket open in the middle of February because it's so warm. You tend to see cross country ski aficionados on the roadways using the roller skis they normally use for off-season training. People who depend on snow removal for a little extra money lose that income. Snow removal equipment begins to pile up at hardware stores.
Nobody ever wrote a great winter story about New England that didn't include snow or some reference to it. Imagine Herman Melville looking out of the window of his study in Pittsfield and seeing the brown frozen peak of a snowless Mount Greylock when he was writing Moby-Dick. I wonder what kind of images that would have conjured up? A brown whale instead of a white one? I don't think so.
In my opinion, there's no business like snow business when it comes to the Berkshires in the winter. Keep the white stuff coming.
Tony Dobrowolski is the business editor of the Berkshire Eagle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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