One week of spring, and already I miss winter

Date: Feb. 10
Mileage: 34
Time: 2 hours, 13 minutes
Weather: 37 degrees, mostly cloudy, SE wind 5-10 mph
Details: Tempo ride, intensity 70-90 percent; circuit around Mendenhall Valley area because that was where the sun was shining.
Note: Legs felt tired from the get-go, in a good way. More biking this week than in a long time.

Dear Mr. Marmot,

I bet you were pretty excited when the Alaska Legislature gave you your own day. Now, every Feb. 2, schoolchildren across the state are going to wish each other a "Happy Marmot Day." Frankly, I was excited about this, too. Passing the Marmot Day bill was about the only tangible thing the Alaska Legislature did in 2009. But I am not here to discuss politics. I am here to discuss winter.

As you may know, Feb. 2 was traditionally considered Groundhog Day, and still is Groundhog Day in the other 49 states (you know, “Outside,” that place we Alaskans generally avoid unless it is February and we have booked tickets to Hawaii.)

But what you may not know is that Punxsutawney Phil, the Pennsylvania groundhog famed for his winter weather forecasts, who has lumbered out of his den on Feb. 2 for who knows how many decades, did in fact still lumber out of his den on Feb. 2, and did in fact see his shadow, and did in fact forecast six more weeks of winter.

Now that forecasted winter is playing out across many of the 48 states (i.e. “Outside” without Hawaii, where it is never winter.) Just Wednesday, the second big blizzard in less than a week buried the most populous stretch of the East Coast under nearly a foot of snow. Conditions in Washington, D.C., were so bad that even plows were advised to get off the roads. They are calling it “Snowmageddon.”

And I am jealous.

You see, Mr. Marmot, since Feb. 2, we here in Southeast Alaska have seen nothing but spring: dry roads, wispy clouds, nearly-blue skies and temperatures in the 40s. Sure, I am enjoying riding my road bicycle during the winter. Yes, it is pleasant to wear a single base layer when playing outdoors in February. I think I am even starting to get a tan on that crescent of skin where my nose and cheeks poke out of my balaclava.

But I miss the snow.

This is Alaska, Mr. Marmot. We like to think we’re special. We like to think we’re tough. We like to think winter in this state was custom-designed to challenge our tenacity and steel our pioneering strength. But this winter has been different. This winter, we strong Alaskans braced to walk on nails and you handed us a cake walk.

Here in Juneau, our February snowfall to date is .2 inches. That’s not 2 inches, Mr. Marmot, that’s point-two. In other words, a fraction not even worth bothering with. Our seasonal snowfall has only been 50 inches, which means we’re currently below Baltimore, Philadelphia ... we’re now below Washington, D.C., for crying out loud. D.C.! The only place where lawmakers are more inept than they are in Alaska.

But I digress. They gave you the day — the special, winter-weather predicting day. Now I think you should do something about it. So here is what I propose. I will come to your den up on Mount Meek. Don’t pretend I didn’t see your furry face up there a couple weeks ago, poking out of the rocks at a time when you were supposed to be deep in hibernation. So, yes, I will come to your den with a big spotlight. Then, when you poke your head up again for another breath of fresh, warm air, I will blast you with so much light, you will have no choice but to see your shadow. And that will be that. Snow will fall. Winter will return. And all will be right in this crazy, new, Marmot Day world.

Punxsutawney Phil gets it.

When are you going to get on board?


  1. Anonymous12:21 AM

    Oh my, I am cracking up. That was hilarious! Great writing!

  2. Hee! Hee! Love it!

  3. Anonymous4:46 AM

    Southern Ontario is on track to see the lowest amount of snow in a winter since they started counting snow flakes. One guy says its because he bought a new snowthrower....I hope he gets another one next year.

  4. That's awesome! If I was more into snow related sports and less into I-can't-wait-for-the-snow-to-melt sports, I would be right there with you. As it is, I'm a bit jealous! Fun post!

  5. Here in PA Ground Hog Day has been, sort of, sanitized (no beer, kielbasa, tail gating, ancient pagan rituals, etc). Ground Hog day was often a comical rite of passage for all types of Pennsylvanians and a way to give old man winter the "salute". However, like most things it has fell victim to corporate interest, politicians, and the like.

    On a different note, since we are experiencing a real winter in PA. I have been struggling with tire choice for my 29er, Any suggestions? Thanks

  6. i feel the same way. i'm from southwestern ontario and this winter has been soooo disappointing, not even one memorable blizzard (hopefully i'm speaking too soon and march will go out like a lion). but we've hardly had any snow to even sneeze at and i'm doing a lot of sneezing right now. you tell him, Jill! great post.

  7. Very funny, we too have been experiencing a harsh winter with long periods below 70*.

  8. ...and Happy Beaver Day to you from Canad-ia!

  9. Yup, here in NW Montana it's awful - above freezing, little to no new snow and patches of grass appearing. . . it makes me so sad.

  10. dinglearm7:47 AM

    I thoroughly enjoyed your post today. I'm from Colorado and I love mountain and road biking. I also get to do more road biking this year. It seems the snow in the front range went on vacation this year.

    Hope you get your snow....

  11. Great stuff Jill...Did you hear they had to bus and chopper in snow for the Olympics due to unseasonably warm weather? I was cracing up when I read about that, but this, Marmot Day, takes the cake! You continue to mix it up, just when you need to. Keep up the great blog!

  12. They are trucking snow into Vancouver for the Olympics. I bet they are wishing for snow harder than you are!

  13. Even us slow-drawl southerners in NC got snow this year. We don't much like the stuff, but about once a decade we get the kind of know that packs down on the streets and allows the use of bladed sleds. People were pulling ancient relics from their garages! It was great fun, and lasted exactly 2 days. That was the best part... hope it's another 10 yrs. before it snows again. You can have it back!

  14. Sandybee12:00 PM

    We drive into snow country every Christmas when my car automatically becomes a ditch magnet. You can have my share of the snow and the white Christmas to go along with it.

  15. You are hilarious. And I like a bit of politics in a bike blog :)

  16. As an aside, I envy you -- for your legislature. The only legislators better than inactive ones are the ones that are safely buried.

  17. Anonymous2:39 PM

    from my seat on the east coast, i'm jealous for you too- its been great. :)

  18. This is just further proof that all such state-sponsored rodentia hastily put forth to try to steal the spotlight from my day, are in fact shallow imposters. Don't forget, Jill, that it is I--the Prognosticator of Prognosticators--that came through with your desired prediction. That's one of the services I provide, because I'm a fan of Up In Alaska. It is just unfortunate for both of us that the AK legislators have boxed me out of the state, giving me no choice but to shower the winter love upon my loyal supporters in the mid-Atlantic and East.

    One more thing: instead of wasting time trudging up the mountain looking for Mr. Fake-ass Marmot, come see me instead in Punxsutawney. You're a woman of letters, and I live in the town library 364 days of the year. Plus since the 2nd, I have a lot of free time on my hands, er, paws.


  19. I always know to come for a visit to your blog if I need a good laugh. You have such a way of writing that I truly feel like I'm there with you. I have felt totally jipped this winter and we have had no snow here. We live "outside", but we dream of being "inside" very soon! Thanks for making me laugh.

  20. One of your funniest posts - I almost spit coffee all over my monitor!

    I'm live in DC and this place is beautiful right now. Granted, everything, and I mean everythig has shut down. But we're not used to 36" of snow in less than a week. Right now is about the time I wish I had purchased those cross-country skiis I was eyeing a few months ago. But I thought better of it as I'd never need them in the DC area.

  21. Anonymous9:17 AM

    Great post Jill! LMAO!!! Marmot day...are you serious?

    We're having a crazy winter here too (the Calif. Central Coast)...cold, snow down to 2500' a couple of times, lots of rain...just crazy! I'm going to have to actually find full shoe-covers or something for my road bike rides...the toasties are only good to mid 50's...I've had frozen toes a couple of times now (not REALLY frozen..but pretty darn cold for a CA guy).

    Here's hoping your Marmot will open a disalog w/ P.Phil and get this nonsense sorted out. Surely the entire East coast will glady donate their remaining winter storms to the Great North West. It's going to be rather dismal in Vancouver unless they get a REAL storm SOON! Like TONIGHT!


  22. Greetings from DC! Jill, I thought of you many times over the past week. Many times wishing I had your puglsey. It's supposed to snow again on Monday :)

  23. Anonymous4:48 PM

    Dear Jill:

    Never fear, it will come!! It will probably be in March & April, possibly May, but it will come. It always does!! And when it doesn't hit in actual winter it hits in spring when I'm trying to garden.

  24. Anonymous5:32 PM

    Great writing Jill. I loved it! And I'm enjoying reading your book while it's snowing in Florida today - seriously.

  25. Hi from DC Jill. In the past 2 weeks I've discovered snow biking and I can't get enough of it. I've biked in powder, in heavy wet slippery snow and in gusting whiteouts. Oddly enough (or maybe not) the harshest conditions have been the most fun and challenging. I couldn't help but think of your snow biking adventures while pedaling though the blizzards. I can't believe how much snow adds to a workout. I'm hoping for more of the white suff here in DC so that my snow biking opportunities don't melt away. I'll make sure to include Alaska in my snow dance wishes!

  26. How in God's name is Alaska warmer than Central NY?

  27. Just went up to one of our PA "peaks". The snow was up to mid thigh. Cool!
    Seems you have angered Phil up there. Cast out your false idol and bow to The Groundhog.

  28. Anonymous8:22 PM



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