The Snowshoe Almanac – February 2006

Feb: 2: Groundhog Day. We hate to break the news to the few who believe in the furry little guy’s forecasting skills, but he really can’t do long range winter forecasts. The whole thing is based on superstitions that if Candlemass Day (Feb. 2) is nice, the second half of the winter will turn out stormy and cold.

Feb. 5: You could have snowshoed (almost) in, of all places, San Francisco on this date in 1887 when there was 3.7 inches of fresh snow. On Feb. 8, 1989, it snowed a bit in Malibu, Calif.

Feb. 7: Imagine snowshoeing in the middle of super busy Route 128 atop frozen cars in suburban Boston. It was possible on this date in 1978 when 3,000 cars and 500 trucks got stuck on the highway in the Blizzard of ’78. The storm dumped two to four feet of snow amid hurricane force winds. Snowshoeing wasn’t so big in 1978, so it was mostly cross country skiers on the highway during and after the storm.

Feb. 9: Wilson Bentley born on this date in 1865 in Jericho, Vt. Who? Better known as Snowflake Bentley, he became the first person in 1885 to photograph an individual snowflake. He photographed more than 5,000 snow crystals during his lifetime and found that no two flakes were alike. In an unrelated development, the National Weather Service, that source of winter storm warnings and heavy snow advisories, was established exactly five years after Bentley’s birth.

Feb. 12: Have a taste of what the Donner Party experienced. Don’t worry, it’s not painful. A snowshoe tour at Donner Memorial State Park in Truckee, Calif., will go along part of the route used by the first wagon train to cross the Sierra, two years before the Donner party. A California Department of Parks and Recreation says one of its rangers will lead the excursion and explain the success of the 1844 crossing.

Feb. 15: Too cold for snowshoeing in Parshall, N.D. on this date in 1936 when the state’s all time low temperature of 60 below was recorded. Just six months later, the state reported its all time high temperature of 121. Both records stand to this day.

Feb. 16: February is the second most dangerous month after January for avalanches. Nearly 40 people have died in February avalanches in the United States since the winter of 1997-98, according to the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center. As snowshoers increasingly go into the back country, the greater the risk. Two of the 27 avalanche fatalities last winter involved snowshoers, the center reports.

Feb. 17: Venus reaches its greatest brilliancy of the year. It’s out early in the morning, before dawn. Check the eastern sky. Venus will be the brightest “star” in the sky.

Feb. 21: While snowshoeing in the woods on a sunny day, check out the areas around the trees. The sun is much stronger than it was at the winter solstice two months ago. The dark tree trucks absorb the warm sunshine and re-reradiate it into the surrounding snow. A noticeable melting of the snow should surround the trees.

Feb. 26 Snowshoers in the Northeastern U.S. woods can see signs of spring. Chickadees are now singing their spring mating songs. And look for snow fleas. They’re little insects that look like pepper sprinkled in the snow near the base of trees.

About the author

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Matt Sutkoski

Matt Sutkoski is a freelance writer and a staff reporter for the Burlington (Vermont) Free Press. He also operates a small property maintenance business. In his spare time he enjoys recreational snowshoeing, trail running and hiking.