Those Darned North Dakota Winters

Written by: Kim Fundingsland

Fall. Thud. Winter.


North Dakota just went from a very pleasant fall season to a heavy dose of winter in just a few hours. People who were riding bicycles or raking leaves, and children who were joyously jumping in them, turned to winter clothing and shoveling snow almost overnight. Tennis courts and golf courses closed. Darn.


Winter means slippery streets and sidewalks, warming up vehicles, frustration when cars won’t start, fewer hours of daylight, and flu season. Toss in shoveling, snow blowing, cars stuck in drifts or unable to navigate uphill, piles of snow blocking visibility at intersections, travel advisories, blizzard warnings, cold fingers, toes, ears, and the drift piles higher.
But wait just a doggone minute, despite all that, winter is also a time enjoyed by many. There’s cross country skiing, hiking, skating, sledding, ice fishing, snowmobiling, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Bottineau Winter Park is a beautiful place for winter outings with snowboarding and downhill skiing. Ah, better.


However ugly the arrival of winter, and this year was certainly a vivid example, there’s nothing that can be done about it. We all complain about it, at least a little, but no amount of complaining can change the fact that it’ll be winter tomorrow too.
North Dakota born; I’ve experienced more winters than I care to admit. I recall many days of shoveling snow from the front door to the sidewalk with the snow on either side chest high or higher. I also remember hunting the first weekend of January when the weather was so nice that all that was needed was a warm shirt. Winter is a weird season. To steal a line from Forrest Gump, it is like a box of chocolates because you never know what you are going to get.


Despite its brash arrival, this winter might not live up to its opening act. The nation’s best weather prognosticators say a strengthening El Nino almost certainly means a warmer than usual winter with less than usual snowfall for North Dakota. That won’t equate to great weather everyday this winter, storms and temperature drops are inevitable but, overall, the outlook favors a “mild” winter. Exactly what mild will look like I cannot say, but I like the optimism.


Warm winter days, temperatures near 30 degrees and light wind, are gifts to be enjoyed. If El Nino behaves as expected, we should have plenty of them. Do not fret, storm lovers, we will have our share of those too. Yes, winter in North Dakota brings a little of something for everybody.


I think of winter as the storm before the calm and take advantage of as many breaks in the storm that I can. Enjoy the winter journey. Rent a cabin or a yurt. Watch a snowfall while drinking a cup of hot chocolate. Build a snowman. Go sledding or skiing. Take in a hockey or basketball game. Attend a winter festival.


One of my favorite wintertime activities is taking my dog for a run on a frozen lake. Of course, I pick days when the temperature isn’t too cold or the wind blowing too hard. Yes, in North Dakota you really can walk on water!

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