Getting the DRIFT

Make the most of a snow day with the best sledding hills, great bread and an appropriately flaky attitude.

Focus On Snow!

January 26, 2003|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Staff

We aren't out of the woods yet. You may be thinking spring, but the National Weather Service forecasters are saying that the El Nino "climate phenomenon" has reached its "mature stage" and will stick around till the end of spring. Translation: We still have a chance of more and deeper snow.

After all, February is traditionally the year's second snowiest month in the Baltimore area, averaging 6.4 inches of the white stuff, according to John Newkirk of the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va. (January, at 6.9 inches, is the snowiest.)

It's no use whining. Don't even think of racing out to buy bread and toilet paper. We're here to help you get through the next White Death in fine style.

First, you need a change of attitude. Henry David Thoreau's description of snowflakes will cheer you up:

"How full of creative genius is the air in which these are generated! I should hardly admire them more if real stars fell and lodged on my coat."

There. Don't you feel better already?

Now, think of the following as a survival kit: odds and ends that will help you have more fun next time Baltimore is paralyzed by a few inches of snow. Start by reminding yourself that this is not a blizzard.

THIS is a blizzard

26.5 inches fell in the Baltimore area Jan. 27-29, 1922.

22.8 inches, Feb. 11, 1983

22.5 inches, Jan. 7-8, 1996

22 inches, March 29-30, 1942

A flurry of information

Is it true that no two snowflakes are alike?

After plowing through a lot of scientific material on the Internet, we gather it's theoretically possible for two snow crystals to have the same layout of molecules, but the universe will probably end before it happens.

Is it true that 10 inches of snow equal 1 inch of rain ?

Nope. The National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., says this ratio is false for much of the U.S. It can vary from 100 to 1 to 3 to 1.

Why is snow white?

Sunlight visible to the eye is white, and snow reflects most sunlight, which gives it its white appearance, again according to the NSIDC.

Is it ever too cold to snow?

No.

Snow Ice Cream

Some recipes say don't use first-day snow, because it contains pollutants from the air. But hey, we breathe the stuff, don't we? Plus, if we wait for second-day snow in Baltimore we'll never get a chance to make this delicious treat.

Serves 4

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup confectioners sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

4 cups of clean, fresh snow

Whip the first three ingredients together until soft peaks form. Place the snow in a large bowl and fold in the cream mixture gently. Eat or freeze until firm.

Snow stats

No matter how bad things are, they could be worse. Here are some figures for the Baltimore area, courtesy of John Newkirk:

We average 18 to 22 inches in the Baltimore area, depending on where you live. (The inches increase from the southeast to the northwest.)

Our top two snowiest months on record have both been in February, with 33.9 inches in 1899 and 33.1 inches in 1979.

Earliest measurable snow on record: .3 inches on Oct. 10, 1979.

Latest measurable snow on record: a tenth of an inch on April 28, 1898.

The snowiest season: the winter of 1995-1996 (62.5 inches).

Play time

If there's snow, you need some toys. In college, we sledded on cafeteria trays. Things have gotten somewhat more sophisticated. Here's what Paul Davis, owner of Princeton Sports in Baltimore and Columbia, recommends:

plastic toboggans and saucers ($10-$20)

snow tubes: like inner tubes that slide on very little snow ($20-$120)

Flexible Flyer: the classic sled of wood with metal runners. Works best in icy conditions ($60)

Tomahawk boogie board for the snow: The foam board has straps on the side to steer ($50).

Traditional wood toboggan: holds three or four people ($150)

Backyard snowboards ($40-$80)

School days, snow days

Here's how our nation's poet laureate, Billy Collins, feels about snow days:

"I will make a pot of tea

and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,

as glad as anyone to hear the news

that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,

the Ding-Dong School, closed,

the All Aboard Children's School, closed,

the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed

along with -- some will be delighted to hear --

the Toadstool School, the Little School,

Little Sparrows Nursery School,

Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School,

The Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,

And -- clap your hands -- the Peanuts Play School."

From "Snow Days," in Sailing Alone Around the Room (Random House, 2001)

Eight great places to sled

Old ski slope, Oregon Ridge Park, Hunt Valley

Baltimore County Board of Education building hill, 6901 N. Charles St., Towson

Wyman Park off Tudor Arms Ave., Baltimore

Several hills at Herring Run Park, northeast Baltimore

Sledding hill at Leakin Park, southwest Baltimore

Broadneck High School in Annapolis

Behind Centennial High in Ellicott City

In Columbia, there's a popular steep hill halfway into the end loop of Little Patuxent Parkway.

In the meadow we will build a snowman ...

The problem with building a snowman these days is that it's hard to get hold of coal for the eyes and Mom may not want her good wool scarf used for his neck. The answer can be found in the snowmen kits a lot of catalogs are carrying this year. For instance, Lands' End has a kit with a "carrot" nose, "coal" eyes, 3 blue buttons and a corncob pipe, all made of wood so you can keep them for next year after Frosty melts. There's also a red Polartec scarf. (The kit is $29 at www.landsend.com.)

Best places that aren't the Giant to buy bread before a big snowstorm:

Bonaparte Breads, 903 S. Ann St., Fells Point (Try the olive bread and the raisin-walnut.)

Bonjour, 6070 Falls Road, Mount Washington (Try the country baguette and the ciabatta.)

Stone Mill Bakery, Green Spring Station, Lutherville, and 5127 Roland Ave., Roland Park (Try the Italian wheat, the health bread and the crusty dinner rolls.)

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