This is nothing!

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(Host) Commentator Willem Lange loves lots of deep, cold snow. But after visiting Newfoundland, he’s careful about what he wishes for.

(Lange) Deep snow seals the house like a thermos bottle. The humidity shoots up, and my throbbing finger cracks subside briefly. The rumble of plows plays a bass background to Walter Parker’s music. The dog dashes out at dawn to scoop up mouthfuls of snow. But she doesn’t dash very far. No newspaper. The local TV station can’t get its camera crews out, so the anchor and weather guy just sit at their desk and hyperventilate about the storm.

Storms invariably find your weak spots. I haven’t replaced my high boots that died last spring. I haven’t added that extension to the roof rake. And I reflect that the snow blower isn’t going to be much good without a drive belt.

When the snow banks get higher than automobile windows, stop signs get more than the usual respect. We can’t quite see around the corners. But this is nothin’!

If you ever want a trivia question that’ll stump everybody, ask what city in North America gets the greatest snowfall. The answers will be somewhere out west. But it’s Labrador City, Newfoundland, on the border of Quebec and downwind of Hudson Bay. In your atlas, follow the St. Lawrence downstream to Sept Iles. Then upstream along the Moisie River till you come to Labrador City, Wabush, and Fermont (“Iron Mountain” in French — sort of like Vermont).

Ski teams travel to Lab City for early-season training. The snow starts falling in October and continues at an increasing rate till April, when two feet normally falls. Then it tapers off till July, when there’s hardly any at all. My friend Dudley and I skied the Great Labrador Loppet one Easter Day on snow studded with little spruces, about five feet high, that in summer were a forest about thirty feet high. The local shopping mall was covered with a drift with tunnels punched through for tractor-trailer access to the loading platforms. The residential area was only partly visible, where doors and windows had been shoveled out. Almost every car had an orange extension cord coiled around a rearview mirror, and at least one front fender bashed in.

Fermont, a town a few miles away in Quebec, features a one kilometer-long, parabolic building facing solar south, with lots of glass on the sunny side. Residents can spend all their time indoors, living, shopping, eating out, and socializing. Miners descend to the basement in elevators and hop onto buses that take them to and from the underground mines. Social scientists were having a field day, when we were there, with the folks in Fermont.

As I write this, the weather guy is telling us another storm is on the way. Bring it on! Perhaps by March we can be shoveling our roofs up and digging down to find our cars. Then maybe we can be the answer to a trivia question.

This is Willem Lange up in Etna, New Hampshire, and I gotta get back to work.

Willem Lange is a contractor, writer and storyteller who lives in Etna, New Hampshire. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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