Okay, Midwest, Northeast, and anywhere that gets more snow than Seattle. We know you get more snow than we do, and you handle it with panache rivaled only once in history, by the socialites aboard the Titanic.

But I’m sick of taking your scoffing and your snide, superior remarks about how inept we are at dealing with snow. It seems that, during our snowstorms, all that people from other places can talk about is how stupid and hopeless we all are to freak out over a “little” snow.

Winter Wonderland?
This picture was taken 24 hours after it snowed last week. Notice the road conditions: Completely untreated and still quite snowy, but now mixed with refrozen slush and packed-down ice. It’s approximately an 8% grade; local kids sledded down the middle of the street the following day.

I lived in central Massachusetts for nigh on eight years, long enough to experience some legitimately wintry winters — and I bike commuted through three of those years. So I think I can speak to some regional differences here. When we lived back East, it would snow; cities and anyone with a pickup truck would clear it; and then it would get sunny and surprisingly nice. Bundle up and you could head out as normal. Cold, yes, but clear skies and dry, clear, mostly flat roads.

Maybe it lets everyone else who has to freeze their buns off all winter feel a little glow of warmth at how much more capable their cities are than ours at handling snow. I don’t begrudge you that little warmth, but before you start mocking us, you try driving 20 miles on our streets (so to speak).

If you really did try to drive 20 miles when it’s snowed here, you might have to let some of that smug superiority slip away. Because:

  1. We have hills. Real hills, with grades exceeding 15%, and they’re everywhere. You can’t go from Point A to Point B without going over quite a few of them. I know; plenty of cities in the Rockies have hills, much bigger than ours. But consider point #2:
  2. Our cities don’t invest in lots of snow-clearing infrastructure. It doesn’t make sense financially, when some years we don’t get any snow at all, or just a day or two. Our usual “wait until it melts” plan works because it rarely stays below freezing for more than a few days at a time. Typically snow goes away within two or three days here, even in the middle of winter. The whole city of Seattle has 35 snow plows; Denver has 70.
  3. Because we don’t have a lot of snow-clearing infrastructure, people drive on the snow, packing it into ice. Then melts a bit during the day and refreezes overnight into an even more exciting untreated skating rink. Try driving on that up and down hills, and then come back and scoff at our caution.
  4. People here have no practice driving in the snow, and therefore stink at it. Most Washingtonians don’t know to drive steadily and carefully, with no sudden stops or turns. Instead, everyone seems to be under the impression that their four-wheel-drive Escalades mean they can drive at the speed limit regardless of conditions. Plus, Washington has recently received a massive influx of people from California, India, and other warm climates — none of whom come with snow driving chops.

Even if none of these factors convince you, remember that every place is different.

You may take snow and subfreezing temperatures with equanimity, but how would you like 145 days of rain? Plus, we live at the 49th parallel, farther north than Portland, Maine. We get less daylight in the winter than anywhere besides Alaska. How would you like to have the sun rise at 8:00 am and set at 4:00 pm in the winter, and in between have mostly cloudy gloom and 40-degree drizzle?

We don’t make fun of people for hiding from rain or feeling gloomy when it’s gray outside. You don’t need make fun of us for our response to snow, whether or not you think it’s reasonable.

How about if, instead of posting smugly about the inferiority of other people’s ability to deal with conditions we handle as as a matter of course, we empathize with each other over shared experiences? Or maybe we could share some tips with how to cope, or even just provide a little encouragement.

It’s an idea.

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