SO, HO-HUM, the thermometer reads below zero again today. Same old, same old.

It definitely doesn’t exactly make me eager to get out and ski 10 or 15 miles today, but with the 34-mile American Birkebeiner awaiting me only three weeks away, ski I must.

It’s always interesting to listen to people talk about the bitter cold whenever we have a winter spell like this, but the truth is it will always be this way in north Wisconsin.

This year, we basked in warm temps for most of December, cried in our beer over the lack of snow for snowmobiling and skiing, and at least some people wailed ever louder about the effects of global warming. Not much of that warming talk for the past couple of weeks.

Now, I’m not saying there is no such thing as global warming, for statistics tell us it is so. I won’t argue with that. That all or most of it is caused by the people living on this planet is a subject for debate that will likely go on as long as humans exist.

I’ll agree there is global warming and that at least some of it is caused by humans. That wouldn’t explain, however, why we were still in an ice age some 15,000 years ago, give or take a few hundred years or so. That was part of an era when most of Wisconsin was covered with ice and I think it is safe to say humans didn’t cause it that time.

I’m no scientist, but what I would opine is that for tens of thousands of more recent years and for millions of years previous, long-term weather changes were the norm for whatever reason.

Our current pattern, I believe, is part of that continuing trend of age-old change, enhanced now by too many billions of people on planet Earth. That said, I look at the thermometer and depending on the weather of the day will complain that either the next Ice Age is upon us or that global warming is about to wipe out mankind. And then, I will go skiing.

Sermon ended. What I started out to say today is that it is colder than a certain piece of a well digger’s anatomy. I also meant to say that since the beginning of my life, we have had insanely cold winters, abnormally warm winters, winters with snow 3 feet deep in our neck of the woods and winters when snow never exceeded a foot in depth.

I’ve seen years when we had ice for ice fishing as early as the first week of November and years when you couldn’t get on the ice until a few days after Christmas. I heated my house with as few as four full cords of wood some winters, while others took twice that much.

I long ago figured out that while it is impossible not to, it still does no good to complain about the weather. While I add my voice to that of the multitudes unhappy with these last days of subzero temperatures, I know two things. One, that no amount of grumbling will have any effect on the weather and two, sooner or later it will swing the other way.

I like to use Mus-Ski Mountain ski area as a guide, if you will, as to what normally happened most winters from the late ’50s through the late ’60s. Mus-Ski Mountain, for those of you nonnatives of this area, was a ski hill a few miles west of Sayner at Musky Mountain.

The ski hill had a vertical drop of 200 feet and with mostly north-facing slopes usually offered good skiing from mid-December until mid-March. That said, each year usually had a period or two when conditions deviated from the norm.

I remember years when we started out with ideal ski conditions through December, then hit a major thaw for up to two weeks before going into an extreme deep freeze for two weeks or so after that. 

There was a year in the ’60s when the hill actually had to be closed down for a time because of a January thaw where daily temperatures were in the 40s with lots of sunshine. At the bottom of a ski run named Holiday, there was a depression which became a lake during that time about 100 yards in diameter. The snow texture on the hill was more water than flakes.

Then, the hammer fell. Temperatures plummeted to 30 below or lower, the little lake froze and the hill became a small mountain of sheet ice. Before we got new snow, I got my Honda 50 sport motorcycle out of its warm basement home for the winter, and rode it up and down the hill, barely leaving a faint track. Then, the temperatures moderated, heavy snow fell and everything went back to normal as we happily skied into March.

For many of my growing up years, we would have a snow cover of 3 feet, sometimes more, by late February. In March, I would strap on snowshoes and tramp trails for starving deer within a half-mile radius of our house, using an ax to cut browse for the deer to eat. 

But it wasn’t always that way. In the mid-’60s, a couple years of very low snow cover helped lead to the demise of all the small ski hills in our area, hills like Mus-Ski Mountain, Squirrel Hill in Minocqua, King’s Gateway in Land O’ Lakes, Sheltered Valley in Three Lakes and Chanticleer in Eagle River.

Most years, my dad, my brothers and I would have a full winter’s supply of firewood cut long before first snowfall. In years when we had lots of cold, but no snow my dad, never one to waste an opportunity, would have me out on the logging roads cutting firewood right up to Christmas, a hedge against a long winter or a head start on the next year’s supply.

Those years contrasted with ones like 1970, when we had a huge snowfall for the opening weekend of deer season in November; a layer of snow that saw me wading knee deep in the stuff while trying to still hunt a buck.

There were years when the ice went out on Plum Lake by the first of April and there were years when we ice fished on the opening day of fishing season. Those trends continue and whether it is global warming or something else, it is what we live with and what we have come to expect here in the north country. 

For what it’s worth, come snow, fire or ice, I’m going skiing.