My Favorite Thing

I like the way puddles freeze at night. Ice grows on the surface and the water leaks out through the ground and an opaque shell stays behind that breaks when I step on it. I like to be awake early in the morning and to have that time alone. I like snow. I like when it’s cold outside and coming into a warm house. I like that my glasses fog when I walk through the door. I like woodsmoke.

I like going to the mountains alone and not saying a word for days. I like the way a pistol jumps in my hand when I pull the trigger and the way a motorcycle pulls away between my legs when I roll on the throttle. I like the way ski boots feel when I put them on in the morning, and the way they feel when I slide them off in the evening.

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I like to cook slowly. I like to lie in bed next to a sleeping girl and a sleeping dog, and to just stare at the ceiling and think about whatever comes to mind. I like the first cup of coffee in the morning to be black.

I like the way water runs through a drain after it’s been cleaned. The way marrow melts in a stockpot over low flame. I like to watch TV on the internet. I like to leave home, and I like to come back.

I like seeing my breath fog in cold air. I like the first half hour in a pool, the first five minutes in a hot tub, and the first thirty seconds in a sauna. I like a fried egg that flips with only the flick of a wrist and when a snowball makes a perfect sphere. I like dogs.

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I like leaving work to read a new book. I like the whiny zipping sound that climbing skins make as they slide across the snow. I like to look at maps of places I haven’t been, but even more I like to look at maps of places I know. Familiarity with a place brings the contours to life. I like that the lights turn on when I flip the switch, although I don’t think about it as often as I should. I like the sound a rock makes when I throw it in a lake.

I like the way a skintrack takes a new shape each time it snows.

I like when grouse erupt from the snow by my feet and we exchange some kind of primal fear, although I don’t like it until much later. I like the quiet that settles in again after the bird has flown away and the only sound I hear is my heart beating in my chest. I like that the longer nights get, the brighter the stars shine.

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I like how wildflowers chase the snowline into the alpine in spring. I like summer rainstorms that are better explained by gods than science. I like when the larch turn golden and line the trails with pillowsoft needles, but my favorite thing is winter.

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The Months of the Year, Ranked

“I like seasons,” the cliche goes. “I wouldn’t want everything to be the same all the time. It’s why I don’t live in Miami.”

I guess I can agree with the sentiment, or at least understand it. But to say that all seasons are created equal is categorically untrue. In order to help with the confusion, I’ve ranked the months of the year from best to worst.

October – When we say that we love the changing of the seasons, we’re not talking about sixteen daily hours of darkness in the beginning of winter. We’re not talking about freezing rain and icy roads in the spring; and we’re definitely not talking about sweltering, smokey afternoons  in July. We’re talking about the first nips of freezing air, of warm days and cold nights. Of golden larch and and anxious energy that comes with headlines like this. We’re talking about October. So throw on a sweater, grab a pumpkin spice latte, and go ride your mountain bike for a while. This is the best damn time of the year.

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Good ‘ol October. There’s a tent in there somewhere.

March – March was a close #2. The days are long, the weather is pleasant, and the snow keeps piling up. Everyone who’s not paying attention is chomping at the bit to go ride bikes, and the backcountry seems emptier than it ought to for having the best skiing of the year.

February – February is when ski season turns on. And really, skiing is one of, like, three or four things in life that are actually worth doing. February gets a minor demerits for hosting the worst holiday, but it makes up for it with the three day ski extravaganza known as Presidents’ Day.

Sweet, sweet February.

November – In November the short days are still novel and the cold mornings are invigorating. Thanksgiving kicks off the winter holiday season, and if we’re honest, beats the hell out of Christmas (I can’t speak to Hanukkah). If you’re lucky you might get a day or two of skiing in, and if you’re not you can still usually ride bikes. If you’re burned out on being outside, that’s fine too; November is a great time for catching up on your reading, dialing in the SEO for your website, or just drinking alone in the dark.

May – Boom! It’s couloir season. The sun’s out again, you can kind of go for mountain bike rides, and the steep snow is staying put. Also it’s my birthday, so . . .

Buddy Steve and Buddy Pagel working out the enigma of May couloir season.

September – September has a lot going for it. Historically I bet it was right up there with October. But frankly, that ship has sailed. September’s spending more time looking like August, and, well, we’ll talk about August later. Climate change is ruining September, and we have no one to blame but ourselves. No one but ourselves and whoever keeps electing Lamar Smith.

June – As far as enduring warm weather goes, June makes it pretty pleasant. It’s not too hot yet and the whole “summer” thing still feels fresh. Have a cookout. Go for a walk. Crack a Bud Light Lime. Enjoy the fact that it’s still not August.

April – I’m not really sure why April is so far down on the list. It feels like it should be up higher. The skiing is still good, and the road riding is coming into form (if you’re into that kind of thing). Some of the lower trails are even open. Maybe April is better than this?

I guess April isn’t all bad.

December – December would be worse if it wasn’t so much fun. It’s dark. It’s mysterious. The skiing is usually lousy but staggering from sweater party to sweater party kind of makes it worth it. Best month? Not by a long shot. Even a pretty good month? Not really. But at least it’s not August.

January – Meh.

July – July hurts my feelings because it should be so good. I remember lovely warm July evenings, chasing lightning bugs and playing Ghost in the Graveyard with kids from the block. I have such warm nostalgia for the month. But it’s been burning us recently, and I take that personally. If you want to call Lamar Smith (see September) and tell him that he’s ruining your childhood, you can reach him at his direct line: (202) 225-4236.

August – Let’s be real: Fuck August. August is the worst month. It’s hot. It’s smokey. The trails are dusty. Everyone around you seems to think that just because it’s sunny out you should somehow be in a good mood or something. F that. I hope August chokes on a pretzel.

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