Icy, icy holidays

20:50, Jan 29 2013

Yesterday, I paid a visit to the sacred temple in Salt Lake City, the centrepiece of the city (the roads are oriented around it) and a Mormon landmark in America. I was strolling the perimeter of the tabernacle when a huge collection of snow came loose from the roof and beamed me on the back of the head and neck. It really hurt.

It was further evidence to me of how snow, searing cold and casual holidaying can make for awkward bedfellows.

Yesterday I was enjoying the final day of the Sundance Film Festival, winding down with a light daytime helping of jOBS and a western starring Ed Harris and January Jones. It was 5.30 as I left the movie theatre. I'd been downtown in Salt Lake City since 10am. As I left my theatrical cocoon and looked out into the wider world, I was taken aback to see that four or five inches of snow had fallen while I was distracted indoors.

Any elation over the convenient car-park I had found that morning was eroded by the discovery of my vehicle now entombed in snow. Using the small tool supplied by the rental car company to scrape ice off my windshield, I proceeded, bit by bit, to free my car. I got down on my hands and knees and scraped the snow out from around the tyres so I could drive out of my parking space (that part was touch and go). I had to get 5 kilometres across town in extremely inclement weather. There was a block or two where it really felt as though my little Chevy Sonic was about to spin out. The car doesn't have a back windscreen wiper, so at one point snow slid off the top of the car and eliminated my rear visibility. It was stressful.

Now, if I was on a skiing holiday I might have salivated at the sight of all this white gold. But I'm not. Me, I just curtailed my evening plans and spent my last night in Salt Lake City catching up on work and surfing the Internet, delighted to be indoors.

It makes me wonder though: is icy weather a holiday deal breaker? (I came here for the festival, not for a tan, so all up I have few regrets.)


I'm in two minds.

In early 2008, LP and I took a jaunt to Montreal and Quebec City in Canada. We were leaving Toronto for the United States, so it was the only opportunity we were going to get to visit these cities.

Our first day in Quebec, it was minus 23 degrees Celsius. I remember only a few things about our time there: heading out to explore that first day and lasting about 20 minutes before returning to our hotel room and putting on almost every item of clothing we owned; seeing the river almost frozen over with gigantic islands of ice in the middle of it; in defeat deciding to see a movie, only to find that everything was showing in French and as I walked away from that blow I slipped in the ice and hit my knee so hard I hobbled for a couple of days.

Montreal was different though. The early dark was befitting of the gothic architecture and cathedrals, the slightly moody grit of the place. Winter seemed to be its natural form. Or maybe I'm romanticising it. The cold wasn't as severe (maybe between minus 4 and 8 degrees) but I liked it a bit more.

It makes me think, isn't there something tyrannical about only chasing holidays to be bathed in sun? Isn't it a little boring to only see parts of the world one way?

I love the crisp wintry air. It has a clarity and presence that summer can't match. The Park City weather for the first week of Sundance was incredible. I shirked the free shuttles on offer in favour of walking a couple of kilometres between the screenings. Taking in the snowcapped mountains, breathing it all in, was memorable. I loved it.

Before I came to Utah, I was somewhat intimidated by the cold. I had a furious day in town shopping before I left, buying up thermals, a scarf and a woollen hat. But I found the weather a welcome change, especially from the day-in, day-out grey-on-grey San Francisco serves up. It's cool to experience a radical new climate. I love it. If you're dressed for it, it is harmless.

But then again, snow is a pest. It gets dirty, holding the collective memory of dog pee and cigarette butts for all to see for days afterward. It makes driving and walking both a pain and, occasionally, dangerous. The cold can wear you down.

So I'm curious, if you're heading abroad, do you take a summer-or-bust approach to planning your trip? Do you avoid snowy weather unless you're skiing?

Do you have a favourite icy holiday moment?

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