Snow Days in the Happy Valley

Mash Notes to Paradise by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Note 22,  Snow Days

I am writing this just before the snow is about to do what it does. A few flakes have begun to drift down crookedly, almost as if in a dream state. The promise: a huge, blizzard of ’78-style dump. I LOVED the blizzard of ’78, which I spent traipsing through Center City Philadelphia. Cars were stranded and heaped with mounds of snow. My friend lived downtown (as opposed to my neighborhood in the Northwest section of the city)—and we walked and walked and slid and slipped and I think just laughed and probably yelled. It was so very snowy.

I remember the world being padded by snow. I remember how it wasn’t all that cold. I remember the deep grey-purple sky. I remember freedom.

That was freedom.

❥ This storm, this Nemo, I doubt it can make me feel free. There are four kids in this house and I, like so many other member-owners, dutifully trekked (if one can trek by car) to the River Valley Market yesterday late afternoon to make sure we have milk and butter and eggs and cheese and cauliflower. It’s so much more about everyone being safe and warm and happy as opposed to exploration or total abandon these days (as it should be, as I chose, no tiny violin plays here).

In general, I’m not a big snow day fan. I work from home and snow days reinforce the reality that my work has an asterisk next to it; it comes second. I struggle with whether that means my work is real enough. Something more real might not be upended by snow days. I don’t have an office or even a room for work (or a nanny so I could leave during snow days for my office, which I also don’t have). Putting that upended sensation aside, I am sure to finish the tasks at hand (so long as there’s power). If I let myself enjoy the whomever-and-whatever happens, this snow day is sure to be fun.

A side note: that this storm is named Nemo has me seeing animated fish in my mind’s eye and I’ve never seen the movie! I have one idea, which is to find it on the telly and watch it with my little girl.

❥ Another aspect to snow days and big weather emergencies is that they remind us all we are in this life (community, neighborhood) together. Neighbors help neighbors. We find cozy, makeshift activity. Our freedom is discovered through our rootedness to one another. That’s a pretty fantastic find.


Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Sarah is a writer, who lives in Northampton with her husband and four children. She contributes to Preview Massachusetts Magazine, as well as other publications and writes a parenting blog Standing in the Shadows at the Valley Advocate. She moved to the Valley to attend Hampshire College—and found the Valley such a nice place, she stayed!

[Photo credit: (ccl) Sharon Mollerus]

Q&A: What’s Your Family’s Favorite Indoor and Outdoor Snowy Day Activities

Question and Answer

Wanted: Snow day activity recommendations! Any activity suggestions on what to do with the kids?

  • Sabine N Merz writes: Help your neighbor shovel.
  • Megan Sherman writes: Pajama Party. PJs all day, family friendly movies, popcorn, and cocoa!!
  • Diane Hinze Kanzler writes: After we dig out the farm, we’ll be making peanut butter cookies. We also like to read picture books together and act out the stories.
  • Amanda Florek writes: Cozy PJs, movies and hot coco.
  • Beth Caissie writes: Go outside with a tape measure (too deep for a ruler!) and measure the snow all over your yard – what differences do you see? Where’s it deepest, where’s it shallowest? It’s a math lesson and earth science lesson and fun in the snow! Now that you’re out there… sled down your front steps or anything w/a little verticality, make snow angels, burrow under the snow, build up a mound to turn into an igloo, feed the birds, shovel a little bit, walk over to your neighbors and say hi, shovel a bit in their yard, catch the snowflakes on your tongue, catch snowflakes on a piece of black fabric, look at them with a magnifying glass…t he options are limitless if you’re dressed warmly! Yay for snow!!!!!
  • Sienna Wildfield writes: MassAudubon has Winter Walk Bingo Cards you can download and print that would make for winter fun outside exploring nature.

Have a recommendation to inspire us all?  Post in the comment box.

Winter Trails Days: Outdoor Snow Sports for the Family


Due to the thin snow cover, most Winter Trails Day events are being rescheduled from Saturday, January 8 to Saturday, January 22 at Notchview on Route 9, Windsor, MA. On January 8th, the free “Winter Woods” snowshoe hike will take place as planned at 1:30 p.m. All other free events will take place on Saturday, January 22 , between 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. A special ½ price trail fee is offered to everyone on January 22, first time visitors are free. Snowshoes will be available for free to try out for up to two hours.

Winter Trails Day at Notchview
Free Snow Sport Events for the Family
Saturday, January 8th, 2011 Rescheduled for January 22nd, 2011

“At Notchview we strive to create a community of skiers of all abilities who love the outdoors. Winter Trails Day is a great opportunity for someone thinking about trying cross-country skiing or snowshoeing to jump in,” according to Jim Caffrey, the superintendent of Notchview Reservation. “Outdoor exercise is a great way to beat the winter blues and pick up your spirits. Nordic skiing is a low-impact, healthy sport for men and women of all ages. The lessons will cover everything from the basics: how to dress; how to get your skis on and off and how to get up after falling; to more advanced topics like proper form and balance. Plenty of skiers will be on hand to provide advice and support.” (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The Trustees of Reservations invite everyone to try out a snow sport on Winter Trails Day. Free events will take place at Notchview on Route 9, Windsor, MA on Saturday, January 8th January 22nd, from 10am-3pm. Snowshoes will be available for free to try out for up to two hours. Free cross-country ski lessons and trail use will be offered for beginner and intermediate skiers at 10:30am and again at 1:30pm. At 11am there will be a waxing clinic covering both waxable and no-wax skis. Find out why no-wax skis should be waxed and how to find the proper ski fit. A good fitting pair of cross-country skis can make or break your skiing experience. At 1:30pm The Trustees volunteers will lead a one-hour “Winter Woods” snowshoe hike. A special ½ price trail fee is offered to everyone; first time visitors are free.

People can venture out for a Nordic orienteering game where they ski along Notchview’s scenic trails, following a map to reach marked locations. Each location has a unique punch code to record on a game card. Prizes will be awarded based on the number of locations recorded.


Winter Trails Day is a national event to showcase the health benefits of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. These low-impact aerobic activities incorporate strength and endurance training, and can help people stay active and healthy throughout the winter months when other sports are impossible to pursue.

To enjoy winter sports, dress in layers with a windproof shell or parka as the top layer. Wear sturdy, waterproof winter boots. Snowshoe bindings are designed to strap on over regular boots. Notchview does not have ski rentals on site. Rental ski packages including skis, boots and poles are available in advance from various local ski shop.


Notchview is one of more than 100 Trustees of Reservations properties across the stat with 3,108 acres with 40km of trails (28km groomed), of mostly single-track trails for classical skiing. Skate skiing is available on 10 km of groomed trail, and 2 km of trail are available for dog owners and multi-use. Snowshoe rentals are available for non-skiers, who can trek alongside the groomed tracks. Hot drinks and snacks are available at Notchview. Lunch is available from nearby stores or bring your own. For more information contact Notchview at or 684-0148. Ski conditions are available from the Notchview phone or at or Notchview is open daily from sunrise to sunset, year-round.

What if Spring Break was Cancelled?

It Could Happen to Gateway Regional Middle-High School Students!

[Huntington, MA] – Spring Break for Gateway Regional Middle-High School students and staff is scheduled for April 21 – 25, 2008. But not if the district incurs too many more snow days.

The 2007-08 school year calendar has school ending on June 26th if five snow days are used. Because of the way the dates fall in June, this leaves only two additional school days available (Friday June 27th and Monday June 30th) to make up for any additional snow days or days lost due to other events. Blandford Elementary School already has to make up an additional day because the school was closed due to a broken water main last fall.

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