• Justin Eberhardt

October Snow (aka Christmas in October)

The first snowflakes had barely hit the ground when my three-year old son declared the Christmas season had arrived -- he was ready to put up the tree and go sledding. I shared his enthusiasm for the snow (if not for breaking out the holiday decor), but I knew those first flakes were likely to be short-lived. The lakes around our house were still open and the ground was warm, so I figured the snow would melt as October snow usually does. However, it continued to fall hour after hour, and by late in the afternoon the view out our window looked the same as it does most winters. The only difference was the date on the calendar -- October 20th, 2020.

I took note of the auspicious date, 10-20-2020, and I allowed a thought to cross my mind. With a little luck, we could be looking at a season with six months of snow!

That evening, with about four inches on the ground, Aiden and I got the sled out of storage and headed out to our backyard hill. The conditions were perfect, and we had a good time logging the first runs of the season. Later, as my wife put up (just one tiny) tree under Aiden's surprisingly specific direction, I went for my first ski of 2020. Still assuming the snow would be gone by morning, it was fun to put on a few kilometers in October.

First classic tracks of 2020 after the first snow of the season. (Ashby, MN)

The new snow survived the night! It was a little soft underneath, and the situation was precarious, but it was still there. Judging by appearances, a melt was imminent. But, low and behold, the meteorologists were talking about a second storm hitting our area after nightfall. The models showed a narrow, heavy band of precipitation developing along a line from South Dakota to Duluth, north of Alexandria and south of Fergus Falls. Ashby was right in the middle of a winter storm warning with six inches of additional snow predicted! The models have been wrong before, but I went to bed (fingers crossed) dreaming of an early winter.

We woke up to a lot of snow, with big flakes coming down at a rapid pace! The forecast was correct, the reinforcements had arrived, schools declared a snow day, and we found ourselves in the middle of full-scale winter, with sub freezing temps forecasted for days to come. Aiden and I spent the day outside, playing in the snow and documenting the October storm.

Halfway through the October storm. Lakes are still open.
Snow pillows along Pelican Creek north of Ashby.
Bluebird skies and snow in the evergreens after the storm. (October 23rd, 2020 in Ashby, MN)

In West Central Minnesota, we almost always have to wait until after Thanksgiving for a big snow storm, and sometimes the ground is still bare on Christmas Day (in 2018, I made this time-lapse of the first snow on December 26th). But this year, we beat the great Halloween Blizzard of 1991 in total snow, and the month's not even over!

It's fun to play in the snow when the temperature is just below freezing and the winds are light.
Not bad for October! It's shaping up to be a good ski season.
I've taken this picture out my back door many times over the years, but never in October.

Now, I know it could still melt (an probably will -- it's only October, after all), so I don't want to get my hopes up just yet. But, there's record cold air in the forecast and I will make use of every snow-covered day of trails I can get. And maybe, just maybe, we could be looking forward to the longest winter ever!

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