Burning Question: If there's one thing guaranteed to send Vancouverites into a panicked frenzy it's the white stuff
From who buys lightly salted potato chips, to what moron thinks bald summer radials are a good idea in December, there are things that enquiring minds want to know. We ask important questions so you don’t have to.
This week's burning question: “Snow in the city. Blessing or curse?”
"Pre-Christmas, it’s great. I love the strange, dead quiet that takes over the city streets after a big snowfall and the fact that people seem happy about the season. I love walking downtown on a cold, bright, and sunny day with snow crunching under your feet. Of course once the lights come down and the holidays are over it becomes a soul-crushing slog through the next couple of months, a waking nightmare of grey slush and wet socks. But it sure makes you appreciate the hell outta the spring!
- Black Halos guitarist Rich Jones
“When you only get snow for a few ephemeral blinks of the year, I say snow is a blessing! As long as you don’t have anywhere to go too fast, take the time to let it snow, baby. If the snow doesn’t overstay its welcome, I invite it back with open mittens.”
- Blonde Diamond singer Alexis Young
"I love snow! I mean, who doesn’t look forward to that dusting of sparkly magic that makes familiar landmarks and the ordinary look so otherworldly and special to the eye?
But really, there’s nothing I enjoy more than having former Albertans, displaced Maritimers, and ex-Ontarians braying with laughter at the two-centimetre forecast that’ll likely cause traffic chaos and keep 93 percent of people at home since they don’t have snow tires, because “That’s not snow!
Climbing out of a tunnel we had to dig from the kitchen door to the truck, that’s snow!” Or their insistence that it’s not actually cold unless your skull shatters into a mass of ice shards the moment you step outside. Truly, the stories of trudging to school with three layers of long underwear because us Left Coast wimps are the only ones weak enough to have “snow days” just brings me so much joy, I can’t imagine a more enjoyable way to observe a rare Vancouver snowfall without the running commentary.
After all, we all know it’ll be over by morning.
- Vancouver journalist Penny Daflos
"While 'it’s either one or t’other' seems ingrained in the human mind as the natural lens through which to examine life, one learns better through the years. The answer is almost always more likely “both/and”. and that’s what we have here. Snow in the city is both a blessing and a curse. There’s often a moment in the early going where a blanket of virgin white covers the city, flakes seen falling through the beam of a streetlight in the gathering dark—and the dark is always gathering in winter in Vancouver, where it gets dark at about the time school lets out—and it brings a rare quiet to the streets with it, like a cloth draped over a birdcage.
The buses ply the streets as quietly as canoes on a still lake, the garbage cans might be tree stumps in a forest. All, as the old song says, is calm. For a few minutes. Almost immediately the snow is gray and black with exhaust, it becomes slush and wherever you go you fight your way through half-set Jell-O. The cars begin skidding out of control, horns shrieking, fenders and bumpers crumple, angry voices …
Rain we can deal with. Snow is another thing. (And anywhere else in Canada what Vancouverites call “snow” brings a snort of derision at our ignorance.)
Any amount of snow brings the city to a clattering, shrieking halt. When I toiled under the yoke and lash of the Vancouver Sun as a reporter I can honestly say that out of 16 years there I must have written a variation on the White Hell! Story a dozen times. Thousands without electricity! Frozen Burritos Face Grave Peril! Kitties Suffer Ice Buildup on the Pads of Their Little Feetsies! ( I always wanted to write about serial killers with a freezer full of defrosting body parts but that was another dream that died in the Pacific Press building.)
The city is simply not built for snow, nor are the people. It’s the only time we pray for rain
Astute readers will note there’s a lot of curse in the above, and not much blessing. So where is it, smart guy?
It’s for the children, sliding down hills on plastic garbage can lids, throwing snowballs and grabbing the bumpers of passing cars for a two-block ride and the ass of their jeans full of slush when they fall off. The adult world will kick them in the balls soon enough. Let them have this, and the rest of us can just suck it up."
- Vancouver musician and author John Armstrong
“I grew up with snow in Russia and the Ukraine—it isn’t a burden to me. I actually love it when it snows, it inspires me to get back into the woods and go snowshoeing. Business might be affected for a day or two, but hot drinks, chocolate, and pastries are a pretty good reward for those who brave the snow.”
- Elena Krasnova, owner pastry chef of Mon Paris Pâtisserie
I’ll take white over grey any day. Call me impulsive, spontaneous, reckless even, but a good drop of the fluffy stuff is much-needed punctuation in the endless dreariness. But let’s not kid ourselves: When our forecast calls for snow, S-L-U-S-H is the reality. Optimists will agree that some fleeting sparkle is worth the subsequent misery and soaked Blundstones. And Vancouver is full of optimists, right? Right?
—Jana Ghimire; artist and curatorial assistant at The Polygon Gallery