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What are you doing to get ready for winter?

Winter in Ashland is pretty chill — that is, laid back, not a big deal. Usually, we get an inch or two of snow and it lasts a day or two. This happens once or twice. Mostly it’s drizzle, but, hey, we get half the rainfall of Portland and that’s sweet. It gets slightly below freezing at night and usually 10 or 20 degrees above freezing in the daytime. Nothing to write home about. Skies are gray. The sun goes down before 5. 

If you’re from back East, with eight months of punishing winter, Ashland seems a paradise climate and we have to laugh at California transplants who move here and whine about the cold.

Not many Ashlanders get studded tires, though they are allowed by law. People living on steep streets or in the outback tend to get studs. Many people here have some kind of woodburning stove — and most are clean-burning, as required now by Oregon law. Let’s face it: fire is cozy and just has a very different feel than flipping on the heat.

As for outdoor fitness regimes, winter doesn’t affect that too harshly. You can still run, bike and hike the many trails above town. And ski! It’s just a little gloomy or misty sometimes. Then we get those amazing weeks of high pressure zones with bracing, clear skies, stunning, snow-draped skylines and starry nights with low temps — low enough that you have to think about protecting your pipes and making sure you have anti-freeze in the car.

But there’s no guarantee that Ashland will stay in the box through winter. A year ago, a big, freezing blizzard dumped lots of snow, which turned streets very icy and dangerous and lasted for many days, with many crumpled fenders. The city clearly needed some experience with this condition. They got it.

In the winter of 1988-89, the Big Freeze hit Ashland and knocked out the power, heat, water, driving and everything came to a stop. People moved into motels. Late in winter, about every decade or two, a rare combination of freezing, snow, then melting produces a flood of the town, bringing everything to a halt. It’s a big expensive mess, but no one dies. In the last half century, it happened in 1964, 1974 and 1997.

Winter is a great time for parties — having friends over for potluck and pulling the corks on a few bottles of the vino. It helps drive away the blues and get us through the gray months. Before you know it, we’re at the Grange buying pansies and veggie starts.

Winter’s coming. What have you done to get ready? What’s up for you this winter? Anything special? Parties? Travel? Looking forward to it or dreading it?

Darrell James — We’re getting our B&B, Nightingale’s, ready over the winter. We just bought it. And I’m writing my fourth mystery novel. We just moved from Southern California, so it feels cold here and rains a lot and is gray. It gets depressing. We had the opposite problem down there. I’m used to sun and drought. We’re talking about getting a four-wheel drive (for snow).

Katherine Ross — My sons are far away, so we’re not doing much for winter. We couldn’t get in the Thanksgiving at Mountain Meadows, where we live, so I took my husband to Callahan’s for their Thanksgiving. It was wonderful. We sat by the big fire and six people stopped by to chat with us, including a man whose ancestor was a pioneer here and actually drove the stage coach. I like winter here. I’m from California. A friend of mine said Ashland is 25 square miles of paradise surrounded by reality and he’s right.

Peter Kennedy — Not doing much. I don’t mind the cold. I’m wearing shorts and will switch to jeans when the snow comes. I don’t like the heat. I’m from California three years ago. I run a few miles a day on city streets. It’s more comfortable running in the winter, but it’s kind of hard when it gets below freezing.

Sara Jones — We just moved here from Eastern Oregon. My husband got a job with the city. It’s significantly warmer here. We love the weather here. (Pulls out phone to check weather.) See, it’s 51 degrees here and 35 degrees in Burns, Ore. That’s a big difference. We just got siped (small cuts) tires for better traction in rain or snow. We’re praying for snow. We want to try skiing on Mt. Ashland.

Reach Ashland freelance writer John Darling at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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