There is no better feeling than groggily waking up in the middle of the night, checking the time, and seeing it is only 4:29 AM. Practically the middle of the night! You take a sleepy sigh of relief, nestle back into your pillow, and tuck the covers under your chin. Ahh…so much time to sleep and dream and be cozy before–
A cataclysmic cacophony detonates from your iPhone and into the deepest crevasses of your soul. Your body ricochets into seated position, fingers scrambling for the snooze button before your mind can even deduce whether or not this experience is dream or reality. The blue light makes contact with your corneas as the numbers 4, 3, 0 absorb into the black holes of your pupils and fire through your synapses. In the most excruciatingly disorienting half-second of your life, your mushy, middle-of-the-night brain has now made sense of the matter at hand: it’s time to wake up.
But duty calls. I must spread the good word of John Hammond to the noble patrons of Sugarbush, and out from under my snuggly covers I emerge, into the pitch blackness of my Burlington apartment.
Despite being an adult woman, I think I will always be a teenage boy at heart in the realm of my capacity for sleep. No matter how old I get or how much sleep I get, I have an excellent, almost unwavering knack for sleeping long past socially acceptable times of day. I believe I gained this skill as a young child, who grew up as the youngest in a family of lethargic, older teenage cousins and siblings. I remember the agony of waiting what felt like an eternity for my sister and cousins to wake up and play with me, and I remember the day it occurred to me, “oh, if I just sleep as long as they do, I won’t have to bore myself waiting for them!” And there you have it folks, the eight year old who taught herself how to sleep till noon; a once useful adaptation that now curses me with a caffeine addiction and a bad morning attitude. A bad morning attitude, until I began my snow reporting career.
Taking it one morning at a time
The combination of my laugh-through-the-pain mentality, and the absurdity of the earliness that just kind of makes my life feel like a joke, have meshed in some way that I am able to make it to the mountain each morning in overall good spirits. My answer to “how do you wake up that early?!” is simply, it doesn’t feel real. The Spirit of Snow Reporters Past compels me, and before I can groan “five more minutes” into the abyss, I am brushing my teeth, putting on my snowpants, and preparing an iced coffee for my pilgrimage to Lincoln Peak.
Sometimes, on weekend mornings, when the Universe decides to be particularly cruel, I can hear my upstairs neighbors puttering around upstairs, having just returned from a night out. The duality of man; we are both within the same four walls, both stumbling, both a little out of sorts, but both on very different trajectories for the day, them headed to their beds and me to the mountains.
I climb into my Honda CRV, but not before spilling coffee all over myself. Yes, this is a daily occurrence, albeit ranging from a few drops to a full-on tsunami. Now, the fun begins. I turn my seat warmer on high and go into Mario Kart mode. The early-morning Burlington streets are deserted, and the stoplights are all flashing yellows until 6 AM, so I traverse from the Old North End to i-89 in no time. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I take comfort in the handful of other cars I encounter on the interstate, all fellow early-morning commuters. On Saturday and Sunday, though, it’s just me, myself and I, and maybe the odd deer. But I am not alone. I am kept company by Nicki Minaj and Steely Dan as I scream sing my way down the dark, winding highway.
Settling into a routine
One thing that is becoming clearer the more commuting reps I get in, is that it could be warm and drizzling in Burlington but then it’s suddenly blizzarding when I get off at exit 10 in Waterbury. I learned of this weather discrepancy the hard way, as I fishtailed my way through the unplowed mountain pass in the wee morning hours of November 27th. But like I said, no cars on the road, so there was plenty of room for slipping and sliding (disclaimer: I have since acquired snow tires). Or, perhaps there is a December 18th 100 year flood, occurring roughly 100 days after the last 100 year flood, that will further complicate my commute. But as they say, even the weatherman gets caught in the rain sometimes. We are all at the whim of Mother Nature, Nicki Minaj and Steely Dan included.
My most favorite part about my 1 hour and 4 minute commute is the stargazing. On clear mornings (nights?) the black sky sparkles with a million stars that I imagine are yelling down at me, “EYES ON THE ROAD, LUCY!”. I can just make out the Big Dipper, and what I assume must be a planet given its alarming brightness, before I hit the rumblestrip. Stargazing at 50 mph is not recommended for the general public and should only be attempted by trained professionals or Snow Reporters. Also note that said galactic admiration can only safely occur in no longer than 3 second intervals. I’ve got a report to write, after all.
Just as the outer edges of the mountains turn from black to a deep blue, I arrive at my destination: Lot G. One great thing about getting to the mountain at 6am is parking is never an issue. I pull the Honda CRV in right next to another Honda CRV, the only other car in the lot, this one light blue and with a giant deer skull sticking out of the grille (Who are you?! And what did that deer ever do to you?!).
I put on my Yak Tracks, zip my puffy up to my chin, and shuffle along like a marshmallow with legs. As I stroll, I debate what corny greeting I’ll start off my narrative with today. Is it more of a “rise and shine”, “wakey wakey eggs and snowflakey”, or “top of the mornin’ to ya” type of day? My important decision-making process is interrupted by the click-click-glide of early morning hikers skinning up Racer’s Edge. Their headlamps bob along up the hill, at impressively fast speeds for the early morning hour and the rate of incline. Godspeed, I think to myself, as I traverse across Spring Fling, my footsteps disrupting the perfect corduroy.
The Mountain Ops Team (possibly a different breed of people entirely)
It is only once I reach the toasty refuge of my Valley House office that I am hit with a tidal wave of exhaustion. It hits harder than the Heaven’s Gate chair hits your butt when you’re not ready for it, and that’s pretty dang hard. My eyes water profusely and every other breath I take is interrupted by a yawn. But then I think of our snowmakers and patrollers, who have been awake far longer than I, but with the addition of strenuous manual labor in bitter cold temperatures. I am but a snowflake chicken princess compared to these absolute legends.
Inspired by the plight of my lovely and hardworking co-workers, I am reinvigorated. I take a big gulp of coffee #3 (it is 6:15 AM), and decide it is, in fact, a “wakey wakey eggs and snowflakey” kind of morning. Let’s get cracking. I write up my reports, update the website, and send some emails, before a flash of neon pink catches the corner of my eye.
Out the window is the most beautifully vibrant, fiery patchwork of clouds I have ever seen in my near quarter-century of life. The colors in the sky are made even brighter with the contrast of the snow beneath it, as the sun makes its flashy ascent over the mountains. There is truly nothing like a Sugarbush sunrise to put a smile on your face and a little tug of gratitude in your heart. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I have a really cool job. I am so lucky to be here, and the picturesque morning sky makes the sometimes painstaking 4:30 AM wakeup feel like a gift.
So here’s to cotton candy clouds and to waking up in the middle of the night. Here’s to a snowier 2024. And finally, let’s raise our coffee cups, because here’s to hoping I don’t max out my caffeine addiction this winter.
Get your wake up call and mountain conditions served up Lucy’s way with the daily Snow Report.