Week Twenty-Six: Snow Business

So I’ve been here six months. Six months since I last saw my family, six months since I rode the Tube, six months since I watched Match of the Day, six months since I heard the terms ‘Asbo’, ‘Happy Slapping’ and ‘Crazy Frog’ (now there’s something I don’t miss). Now it’s all ‘Roseville Auto-Mall’, ‘Ask your Doctor’ and ‘Triple Doppler Radar’. And despite the recent rainstorms and floods (and, um, tornadoes), the weather is still much better than in Britain, though there is one thing I will always miss – snow. Yes it’s freezing cold and causes pipes to burst and cars to slide all over the place, but there’s something magical about a blanket of snow. So on Sunday we decided to drive a couple of hours east of snow-free Davis into the Sierra Nevada mountains to see some of the white stuff close up – and we were not disappointed.

I have never seen so much snow in my life!! The sky was blue, and it wasn’t particularly cold, but I can’t imagine the blizzards that must have raged through those valleys. We stopped at a gas station on the way, and the snow was so deep that we could not read the road signs. Snow over a metre thick was piled up on the roof, bringing to mind ominous echoes of Bad Reichenhall, while small white hillocks were only revealed to be buried vehicles when their aerials poked out of the frozen mush like pathetic grave-markers. Yet with a blue sky and a well-ploughed freeway gliding through the chocolate box landscape, it’s easy to forget the lethal side of snow.

We passed by Donner Lake, a place synonymous with icy death. It was there that the Donner Party, a group of California-bound settlers, met their fate during a ferocious winter storm in the 1840s, resorting to cannibalism. With that in mind, when we reached the town of Truckee for lunch, we both ordered vegetarian dishes. Truckee is a nice little place, whose history lies in the westward expansion of the railroads that united the nineteenth century States. It kind of reminded us of one of those model towns that accessorise Hornby model railway kits.

From Truckee we drove to Squaw Valley, the small but world-renowned ski resort that audaciously staged the 1960 Winter Olympics, fending off Alpine bids from Innsbruck, Garmisch-Partenkirchen and St. Moritz. Nestled comfortably in a valley around a frozen lake, the only thing missing was the White Witch’s castle. Skiers big and small were pouring down the mountains like tiny black raindrops on a window. I have never wanted to ski, ever – lots of danger of injury, freezing cold weather and ridiculous outfits – if I’d wanted that I would have been an X-Man (actually, that would be cool). But after actually visiting a ski resort, even after getting ripped off with an over-priced and under-sized beer, I’m starting to see the attraction of skiing. At least there are no spiders up there.

So after six months I have finally seen a new side to California, the snowy side. We are just as far from the beach here as the breathtaking mountains, and whatever else London might have to offer such as newsagents, Match of the Day and decent news channels, it doesn’t have that. Score one for Arnie’s state.

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