Thursday, February 02, 2012

Groundhog Day

My earliest memories of Groundhog Day are from second grade. I'm sure it was mentioned before that, but it never made an impression on me until then. It seems like a simple concept, but I had difficulty understanding it.

Throughout my elementary years I was confused as to which condition was supposed to yield two or six additional weeks of winter. The whole connection between whether some critter sees its shadow on a given day and future climactic conditions never made much sense to me as a child.

As an adult, I now realize why Groundhog Day made little sense to me as a child. Despite what various Internet sources suggest might be the impetus for this eccentric commemoration, I am convinced that the folklore behind the tradition was developed by people that were very drunk.

I guffawed when I saw a link to an ABC News story that carried the headline, "Punxutawney Phil Isn't Always Right." Gee, ya think? A bunch of guys in Victorian era formal wear yanking a critter out of its den in some remote outpost in Pennsylvania and pronouncing whether the animal has seen its shadow or not is hardly a rational basis for extended weather forecasting. (I guess, kind of the same way that "Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government.")

It is unlikely that many actually believe that some groundhog's view of its own phantasm accurately predicts weather patterns. It is far more likely that people take an interest in the matter simply for its whimsical value. It's a non-serious departure from the many serious matters with which we are constantly bombarded.

As for this Groundhog Day, I was blessed to take a day off work to accompany my son's class on a ski trip to Snowbasin. The day turned off quite grand. It was mostly sunny and relatively warm. Traffic at the resort was quite light.

For the first couple of hours, the students were all taking part in group ski lessons. So I was free to roam the mountain. It has been a long time since I skied at Snowbasin. Since it became a venue for the 2002 Winter Olympics, the cost of skiing at the resort has become cost prohibitive. But the group rate allowed me to ski today.

I was able to carve down hills that I haven't skied since I was a teenager. I skied terrain that I had never previously traversed. Despite the low amount of snowfall this winter, the snow base with the addition of manufactured snow provided a very nice surface for skiing. I went down a number of black diamond runs (although, with less aggressiveness than in my earlier days). My quadriceps are already complaining with soreness.

But I had a great day. For much of the day I had a smile on my face that wouldn't go away. As I glided down the sparsely populated slopes in the sunshine, I thought about Groundhog Day. I'm not sure whether there are any animals similar to groundhogs at Snowbasin. And frankly I don't care. But I'm sure that such an animal would necessarily have seen its shadow up there.

So what? It makes no difference whatsoever. All I know is that I had a very enjoyable day skiing.

No comments: