Snow arrived during our first October in Alamosa. The manner of its unfolding in this valley that abhors precipitation would become typical. It began with late-morning clouds descending upon the Sangre de Cristo Mountains north of Blanca Peak. By afternoon, the clouds continued to build on the perimeter, extending south over the range beyond La Veta Pass. Then winds entered the valley, ushering clouds that obscured the Piñon Hills to the south. By four p.m., the entire valley was under a dome of cloud. By six p.m., a wall of cloud connecting sky and earth advanced over the valley floor from the north. By seven, dry, confetti-like flakes of snow began to fall at our house.
Come morning, the skies clear, the air clean and biting, several inches of snow blanketed Alamosa County. Buddy and Nick, born and raised in the hot desert, stepped upon it tentatively. The squeak and growl of snow beneath my boots was the first I’d heard in years. The crests and peaks of the Sangres, now more a province of sky than Earth, were cloaked in snow; forbidding enough in summer, now they were a no-man’s or -woman’s land.
Yet, by noon, the air had warmed and the snow around our home had melted, surprising and saddening me, although the ground was still damp. But I knew those mountains would remain snow-capped until the following summer, unfailing beacons, their glow fed by sun-, moon-, and even starlight.
My friend Wayne would tell me of the brutal winters he experienced in Alamosa as an Adams State College student, winters not only bitterly cold but deep with snow that lingered even in the generally arid heart of the Valley. I believed him, although with some difficulty. Snow rarely accumulated to any great extent during our years in Alamosa, and when it did, it disappeared rapidly in the teeth of the almost daily unobstructed sunshine.
In any event, when it snowed at our house and in town, I reveled in it, grateful for every flake. The dry valley cold that usually accompanied a snowfall insured that the flakes would be light and dancing, as apt to travel, with the right breath of wind, upward as downward―the “champagne powder” for which Colorado ski resorts are famous. Normally not one for jostling sidewalk crowds―not even the “crowds” on the sidewalks of little Alamosa―I’d deliberately walk through the city’s downtown on a snowy afternoon, exchanging smiles with the other citizens who were obviously delighting in the rare magic. Urban pedestrians―jostling, grasping, and grating under the best of circumstances―surely enjoy at least the initial stages of a snowfall, when everyone is wrapped in his and her personal envelope of falling snow, buffered against everyone else, nerves soothed. Meanwhile, I knew the valley’s farms and ranchers cherished the moisture.