Monday 8 February 2021

Out On The Skis Again


Low clouds, light snow showers, flat light. The first week of February has been subdued and uneventful, each day much like the last. The hills have remained mostly hidden under the solid unbroken dark cloud, which has always threatened heavy snow, without ever producing any. The snow on the ground has slowly built up, centimetre by centimetre. At times the wind has picked up, shifting the snow into big drifts and removing the last vestiges from the trees, but overall the landscape looks much the same as it did at the end of January. 

Then on the afternoon of the last day of the week the clouds rose a little, revealing the white bulk of the Cromdale Hills, and then started to break, allowing shafts of sunlight to slice through. The air felt lighter and less oppressive, as if the darkness of the solid layer of cloud that had lain over the land had actual weight.

Enthused by the change in the weather I headed out for a short ski tour, enjoying breaking a new trail through unbroken snow, old ski and boot tracks well-covered. Out in the fields the whiteness stretched out in every direction. But for the distant forest I could have been in the arctic. The bitter wind was arctic like too, stinging any bare skin, and I soon took to the shelter of the trees where I paused to listen to the silence and relish the feel of winter. 

Far across Strathspey the high Cairngorms were still invisible under a dark shroud but a pale Meall a'Bhuachaille did appear, far more prominent than when the bigger hills can be seen behind it.

Skiing back along the forest edge I encountered drifts a metre and more deep, a ski pole suddenly plunging through the soft unconsolidated blown snow to a harder layer far below. Above the clouds were disintegrating.

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