This post originally appeared on the Longmont Compass on January 14, 2015 and is solely for portfolio purposes. 


The 5 Phases of Every Colorado Winter

Connor Magyar


“If you don’t like the weather in Colorado, just wait five minutes!” Maybe it’s just me, but that particular snippet of pseudo-wisdom seems to come up in a Colorado winter more often than “Good morning, how are you,” or, “Connor, what are doing with that hammer?”

The real problem behind this tedious truism is that it makes me think about the weather. I end up having to take a few seconds to consider how different fronts are moving across the Western Hemisphere, how many butterflies in Africa are responsible for the current weather conditions, and whether it’s an El Niño year or not.

None of which, frankly, I care about one whit in the summer – but in the winter, they make me curse, often very creatively, the fact that my apartment doesn’t have a garage.

So without any further ado, these are the five most common phases of every Colorado winter. 

(Just a bit more ado, actually. These phases are in no particular order, can and do happen more than once per winter, don’t encompass every micro-climate in the state, and they may not happen at all this year – so you can save your sass, internet commenters. We’re not the Farmer’s Almanac.)

1. Honeymoon

After a long and dry summer spent hiking and biking in the greenery of Colorado, a lot of us start to crave the snow and ice of winter. We long for the break in the heat, the signs that it’s time to start skiing again and we get to see the Rocky Mountains snuggled peacefully in a white blanket – which makes any picture of them look good. When the freeze finally comes, and the snow starts to fall – that’s when The Honeymoon begins.

For a few days – or weeks, depending on how long the snow sticks around – we are entranced and fascinated by the bright white topping that our world has adopted. We pull out our winter clothes and revel in the scarves and sweaters we get to wear to stay warm, reflecting on how terrible we looked in shorts anyway.

Notable Features: The year’s first snow, realizing you lost your shovel, ice scraper, and boots over the summer, a new-found love of snowball fights, building snowmen, and eating snowflakes.

2. Indian Summer

‘Indian Summer’ is a period of unseasonable warmth in the winter. A similar phenomenon in Germany is called Altweibersommer, literally “old women’s summer”, a word that makes me wish we had more German loanwords. Wikipedia states that an Indian Summer only occurs in September, October, or November. I state that Wikipedia should take a look at the forecast for this weekend in Longmont.

54°, baby.

 We usually spend our Indian Summers saying things like, “Wow, maybe we won’t get a winter this year,” “See, I told you global warming was real,” and “After the warm passes we’re going to get more snow than we know how to handle.” An Indian Summer in a Colorado Winter can last for as long as a month or just an afternoon.

Notable Features: People say “If you don’t like the weather in Colorado, just wait five minutes!” even more brightly and vacuously than usual, ski-bums get itchy and hope this “bad weather will pass,” and know-it-alls declare, “Just wait for the Chinook!”

3. Ice Planet Hoth

If you ever think you might be living in some hellish snow globe that someone put inside of one of those paint shakers they have at hardware stores, you might be experiencing the Ice Planet Hoth phase. The snow falls hard and fast, the wind threatens to teach you a lesson about ice, and you feel an almost irrepressible urge to climb inside a Tauntaun.

The second phase of Ice Planet Hoth is when the snow stops falling. High winds tear across the snow making drifts wherever they see fit, making every tiny crack and opening in your walls and windows scream and whine. You pace through the house wondering if you have enough duct tape to cover the holes and STOP THE SCREAMING.

Lucky for us, this is usually the shortest lived phase of any Colorado Winter.

Notable Features: Orange flight suits, drops in average driving speed of up to 70%, and Facebook pictures of snow drifts on your friends’ Adirondacks. Actually, scratch the driving speeds – nobody in Colorado seems to care remotely if they can see where they’re going or not, and apparently they labor under the misapprehension that ‘four-wheel drive’ also means ‘four-wheel stop’.

4. This is @#$%&!

We’ve had this phase of winter a bit too frequently in the last couple of years. Remember the week of single-digit temperatures last winter that the Polar Vortex was generous enough to grace us with? Or the 3mm thick sheets of ice that have been forming on windshields this year? Or how about those single-digit days when the sky is a clear, bright blue, and the sun is beaming strong, but doesn’t warm anything? When it’s been too oppressively wintry for too long, we’re in a This is @#$%&! phase.

The phase is named after the most common phrase uttered during its reign: This is @#$%&!. The This is @#$%&! phase is total @#$%&!. Seriously. It’s total @#$%&!.

Notable Features: Everyone is talking about how @#$%&! the weather is, lamenting their wasted summer, and bitching about snowplows. Or maybe it’s just us.

5. T-Shirts at 47°

T-Shirts at 47° can happen at any time. One day you’ll see a few dozen people who have decided to wear t-shirts, and you’ll think, “Is it finally okay to wear t-shirts again?”

The answer is no. It is not okay to wear t-shirts again. It is January, and it will not be okay for another four months. And the instant you give into temptation, a blizzard of Biblical proportions will immediately descend on Longmont, leaving Boulder untouched because nobody there wore a t-shirt today.

T-shirts at 47° is a cruel, cruel trick that only the recent immigrant will fall for. Native Coloradans aren’t fooled for a second.

Notable Features: Shivering, goosebumps, unwavering and totally misplaced optimism about the impending end of the Colorado winter, and blindingly-pale arms.