Snow far, snow good by
(5 Stories)

Prompted By Snowy Days

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I’m in the middle

I’ve always loved snow, but in general, I prefer it to be located on ski slopes.  While I was growing up on the plains of Oklahoma, snow was not that common.  My siblings and I loved it when it happened, but on that flat terrain, there wasn’t much to do with it except build snowmen or throw it at each other.  I had heard about kids in the hilly eastern part of the country going sledding, and I was very envious.  So one year when we had an unusually heavy snow, I was thrilled when Dad chained an old door behind the tractor and took us out on the road for a ride.  The door swerved back and forth and threw the three of us kids, laughing hysterically, into the ditch.  Good fun.

Snow didn’t play much of a role in my life until I graduated from college and finally had enough money to go skiing.  My then boyfriend, now husband, and I learned how to ski in New Hampshire in brutally cold weather and icy conditions.  Knowing how to navigate on blue glare ice and how to avoid frostbite were useful skills at the time. Over the Christmas holidays during grad school, we flew to California to go skiing at Mammoth Mountain.  We couldn’t understand why there was hardly anyone on the slopes during the holidays and asked a ski instructor why that was.  He looked surprised and replied, “Because the conditions are so bad!  It’s icy!”  We were astonished because the snow, hard-packed powder, was the best we had ever experienced and there was no shiny ice to be seen.  After that we vowed we would never ski in the East again.  It’s a promise we have kept.

In the early 1980s, we relocated from San Francisco to Incline Village, Nevada, on Lake Tahoe but drove back and forth to the Bay Area for business.  In order to do that, one must drive through Donner Pass on Interstate-80.  Not wanting to repeat the experience of the Donner Party, we kept rescue supplies in our four-wheel-drive vehicle – food, water, shovel, sleeping bags, boots and mittens, and cat litter for traction.  Our condo was equidistant from Squaw Valley (now Palisades Tahoe) and Heavenly Valley resorts and we skied as often as possible.  Over January 4th and 5th of 1982, the Tahoe area received 67 inches of snow in 24 hours!  (Some entrepreneur later printed up bumper stickers saying “What’s for lunch – Donner Pass 1982”.) Both I-80 and Highway 50 were closed during that time, cutting off travel from the Bay Area, so we locals had the slopes to ourselves.  There were no lift lines at Heavenly and it was snowing so hard that we skied untracked powder, then rode the lift back up and skied untracked powder again.  Over and over.  It was heavenly indeed.  

Sadly, in March of that year after several days of very heavy snow, an avalanche at Alpine Meadows, another resort we liked, killed seven people.  The total snowfall that year was so great that when we drove on Mount Rose Highway from Incline Village to Reno on July 4th, there was still ten feet of snow on each side of the highway.  Work required us to move back East in 1986, and since then, my snow experiences have been limited to the occasional trip to some ski slopes, which is where snow belongs

Love to ski

I’m in the center with younger brother and sister


Snow belongs on ski slopes.
Profile photo of Cynthia Blanton Cynthia Blanton
Walter Johnson HS, Harvard undergrad, Harvard MBA, corporate strategy consultant, bank VP, jewelry designer, photographer, retired. Lived on a farm in Oklahoma; Granada Hills, CA; Bethesda, MD; Cambridge and Boston area; San Francisco and Bay Area; Incline Village, NV at Lake Tahoe; Westport, CT; Pelham Manor, NY; Toronto and Oakville, Ontario, Canada, and now I live in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico! (Photo: at lunch on rooftop restaurant in 2021)

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Tags: snow, skiing, avalanche, Donner Pass
Characterizations: been there, funny, right on!, well written


  1. Marian says:

    Cynthia, I can visualize exactly what you are writing about the California/ Nevada slopes. I don’t ski, but many friends do (I don’t because of a horrible first experience on the East coast). And, I’ve been on Mount Rose on July 4, with snow, but not as much as when you were there.

  2. John Shutkin says:

    Fun story, Cynthia, and also great photos, but you are the opposite of me on this, Cynthia. I started with all sorts of skiing opportunities and found I had no interest. You were afforded them later and embraced them. De gustibus…. But sorry you are currently deprived, especially given where you now live which is not exactly known for its slopes.

    But glad we agree on punny “snow” titles for our stories.

  3. Wonderful story Cynthia, and fun to learn all the places you’ve hung your hat – or helmet – and now sunny Mexico!

    Hope to read more of your Retro stories!

  4. Suzy says:

    Great story, Cynthia. I am struck by how much you look the same as a little girl and as an adult. Both wonderful photos! Having skied in New England and in California, I certainly agree that even a “bad” snow day in CA is better than most days in New England. Sounds like you had some great years living at Incline. And I love how you kept your car equipped for emergencies so as not to end up like the Donner Party!

    Love your punny title too, you and John are two great minds that think alike!

  5. Khati Hendry says:

    Like you, I spent a lot of time between the Bay Area and Tahoe, including a week when the basin was completely cut off due to snow and slides (was it 1982??? I guess so)—also gas and electricity out for many. We skied wherever we could—no lift lines ha ha. Mt Rose was completely snowed in. Sounds like our paths have crossed from Bethesda to Cambridge to California to Canada to Mexico. Loved the pictures!

  6. Betsy Pfau says:

    Great story, Cynthia. I was never much of a skier, but my husband was, grew up in the Boston area, skiing in VT and NH, but loved getting out west to ski in Colorado and definitely agrees with you! (For various, mostly health reasons, we have both given up skiing now.)

    Your adventures sound amazing. (I like the Donner pass provisions story – smart!) On a company-funded trip, we skied Squaw Valley once. I had no idea it had its name changed (I still have a turtle neck with the Olympic rings and its names emblazoned on it).

    I will join the chorus of people who enjoyed your punny title as well. Clever!

    • Thanks, Betsy. I really do miss skiing and would do it again if I could afford it. I faint at the prices for lift tickets, not to mention travel and lodging. I haven’t skied in more than 10 years and would have to be much more careful than in the past. No more going through the trees. Can’t count on the knees and sure wouldn’t want to fall and break a hip. Bah humbug. I don’t like aging.

  7. Laurie Levy says:

    Wonderful snow/skiing stories with great pictures. My friend’s daughter was trapped in Tahoe over Christmas by a huge snow fall that closed the highway and the slopes. From seeing her photos, I can imagine your experience.

  8. I actually did not realize the East was considered so inferior for skiing, but I guess I was fortunate then, as I skipped down-hill skiing (no interest at all) until I met Betty at our 1996 (25th) Reunion. She invited me to join her at a neuroscience conference in Breckenridge–join her in her lodgings, not in the conference!–and introduced me to skiing at age 47. That was one helluva place to begin and I probably never experienced anything equal.
    P.S. My mom only skied down-hill once in her life–in Vermont while on an educational trip during her teaching days, at age 60.

  9. Dave Ventre says:

    You really DO look much like your younger self!

    A ski trip to Dixville Notch, NH in the late 80s was the only time I ever had my eyes freeze closed. I really thought that -30 at the lodge was a thermometer error. I kept having to open them manually, one at a time, while avoiding trees and the few other die-hards. One run and done!

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