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'Celebration' dust

Termination dust appears on the mountains above Salmon Creek in mid-September, as seen from Marguerite Street in North Douglas.   Courtesy of Spotted user ominreg
Courtesy of Spotted user ominreg
Termination dust appears on the mountains above Salmon Creek in mid-September, as seen from Marguerite Street in North Douglas.

The clouds lifted briefly this week to reveal a downy white dusting of snow on the peaks above Lemon Creek. 

My husband, absolutely ecstatic about the sighting, called me to share the news. Talk of the fresh snow percolated through town and our paper's photographer, Michael Penn, was even asked to snap a photo of the tell-tale sign of winter's impending arrival. 

As quickly as they had departed, however, the clouds rolled back in. It's easy to guess that with the heavy rains at sea level and cold temperatures above, the dusting — dubbed termination dust by Alaskans — has accumulated into more than just a few inches. 

I've always pondered the origins of this moniker. Is it another way to say "summer is over?" From the perspective of a winter addict, like myself, I feel like it should be termed "celebration dust" — for me it cues a little happy dance in my soul.

Certainly, the first blanket of snow is a signal to wildlife that it's time to snatch up those last berries, to cache the remaining spruce cones in a final ditch to pack on the pounds or prepare for winter’s less-than-appealing months. For bears, maybe a fitting term could be "hibernation dust" — as in, get your rear in gear, Old Man Winter is coming!

But for those who live in Southeast, seeing the snowline creep down the alpine, is somewhat bittersweet. Winter in this region never follows the stereotype of the term; we all know rain could rule the forecast well into January. Yet, the preparations begin. 

Take this weekend, for instance. Saturday morning kicked off with International Coastal Clean-up Day where locals, businesses, youth groups and other organizations pitched in to pick up trash on local beaches. Just like a gardener prunes, preens and tucks in their garden for winter, volunteers were asked to tidy up our beaches before strong winds and high tides deposit trash elsewhere. Discover Eaglecrest Day was also in full effect with activities and opportunities for just about everyone. One of the most exciting things about this year’s event was the sale of the old Black Bear Lift chairs (you know, the ones with the center pole). The best part? They were selling them for $100 each — not a bad price to pay for taking home a little bit of history — and all the proceeds went toward supporting the Eaglecrest Foundation which aims to give underprivileged youth the opportunity to ski.

When we called Saturday afternoon, Jeffra Clough, director the Snowsports School, said she expected they would sell out of the chairs that day. That means good things for the Eaglecrest Foundation and shows that Juneauites are already thinking about carving those first turns.

Speaking of carving, time to sharpen those edges and tune up those boards, especially if you’re looking to sell them at the annual Ski Sale hosted every year by the Juneau Ski Club and the Juneau Ski Patrol at Centennial Hall. (You could dust them off as you’re putting away your gardening supplies!) This year the event will (unofficially — organizers say they lost track) turn 60 and provide opportunities for young and old to purchase a variety of snow sports gear. There’s no word yet on when the date is set for 2012, but it’s typically held in late October or early November.

Juneauites are also famous for their ability to plan to the gills when the sun of summer begins to set; this weekend also featured the first Capital BrewFest, the second annual Juneau Lyric Opera’s “Who’s Your Diva?”, Rock the Vote, Gold Street Music’s Mountain Music Fest at the top of Mount Roberts, an arts and crafts fair, various organized walks and the opening of “Of Mice and Men” from the Perseverance Theater, just to name a few.

Hence, the arrival of termination dust on area peaks isn’t truly signifying the end of anything, in my opinion. No, in fact it marks the beginning of when we celebrate the snow instead of the sun. It marks the start of a time when Juneau residents come together, to reconnect after months of playing (or working) too hard. 

So, settle down with that cup of tea and call up that old friend. Or, prepare that gear because a new season is just around the corner. 

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