Snow on the Rose

Linda Burton posting from Denver, Colorado – “I want fall!” said the young woman in the waiting room. “We always get short-changed.” All of us were in temporary warm-clothes, grabbed hastily due to a 40-degree temperature drop that blew in like the Big Bad Wolf Wednesday night, huffing and puffing. It was 83 degrees when the DebateFest began at 3 PM on the University of Denver campus; DU students were sprawled on the lawn in short sleeved shirts. At 5:30 the wind began to blow, and within minutes the outdoor newscasters covering the Obama-Romney debate were covering themselves, wrapping neckscarves in a double fold and hanging on to their mikes. Those TV images were a signal to me that it was time to get the flu shot, so Thursday morning I headed for the clinic. That’s where the young woman sat, complaining about the weather. A tall and tan and ruggedly handsome man walked in and sat down near us; a folded bandana tied around his head; manly boots on his feet; a mountain-man image come to life (we later learned he fought fires in the summer and plowed snow in the winter). “I had snow at my house this morning,” he announced. “It was 26 degrees.” I asked him what the elevation was; he answered “8,700 feet.” Snow? I certainly wasn’t prepared for that. But hey, he’s at 8,700 feet; that won’t happen in town. Or so I thought. This morning, the red rose outside my window was layered with white. Snow, on October 5. Snow, on the rose!

The Denver promo writers admit the weather is unpredictable here; four seasons, varying drastically. The brag is “300 days of sunshine, more than Miami or San Diego.” The Rocky Mountains get the credit for the dry, warm winds (Chinooks) that heat the city, keeping temperatures generally mild year round. But wait. What about the snow? The “fall” the waiting-room woman wanted is really an unpredictable time of the year, fickle, you might say. All those aspen groves turn gold, pretty in town, even more so in the mountains. But, aha, the first snow usually falls in the city in late September or early October; we’re right on schedule it seems. Then snowstorms come and go; alternating warm, sunny days with chilly, breezy ones.

Meanwhile, skiers wait impatiently for ski season to begin; it generally happens mid-October. The mountains, of course, are world-famous for their skiing snow. But in Denver-town, snow falls sporadically through most of the winter, melting fairly quickly in that persistent sun. Temperatures hover around freezing but cloudy spells rarely last more than a day or two. March ends up being the snowiest month in Denver; big blizzards hit unexpectedly and spring weather is even more fickle than fall. Mountain ski resorts usually stay open till mid-April; then Denver turns green again with melting snow runoff. Denver summers are dry and warm, not scorching but comfortable, staying in the 70’s-80’s, great for outdoor activities; and great for making roses bloom.

This morning’s Denver Post had this to say about today’s snowfall: Two days after temperatures climbed into the 80s, residents of the Denver metro area woke up to snowfall Friday with temperatures in the 30s. A hard freeze warning for much of the state indicates the growing season is over, according to the National Weather Service. Vegetation that is not protected can be damaged or killed overnight.

The Colorado DOT is closely watching the roads, those “icy bridges” warnings are out, but Denver isn’t expected to get any accumulation, even though Saturday morning may bring more snow, and temps in the 20’s. There’s rejoicing in the mountains; the Loveland Ski Area to the north has turned on the snow-making machines and can’t wait to get that 18-inch base and tree-to-tree coverage down. Last year they opened on October 14 and hope to meet that date again. “The buzz of the snow-guns is a welcome sign,” said marketing director John Sellers.

Meanwhile in Denver, the woman in the waiting room wants more time to enjoy the golden aspens that so beautifully grace the city streets. I’m with her; after all, summer ended just 12 days ago. Snow, on the rose?