Locals embrace rituals to encourage the flakes to fall | VailDaily.com

Locals embrace rituals to encourage the flakes to fall

Katie Coakley
Special to the Daily

VAIL — Of all the natural forces in the world, perhaps none causes as much joy — and despair — as the weather. From an awe-inspiring sunset to the awe-inspiring shock of a tornado, it's weather that has us talking, dreaming, hoping and scheming.

For a region that equally worships (the advent of) and curses (the lack of) snow, it makes sense that we would also try to manipulate it, to bend it to our will. However, as science hasn't produced a reliable method of compelling the snow to fall, we have to resort to other means. Rituals, traditions, superstitions and even a bit of mythology all come into play when it comes to the snow. And while it may be hard to definitively prove the efficacy of these techniques, it certainly hasn't stopped anyone from trying.

Spoons, pajamas and flying ice cubes

"Specific snow-dance rituals vary from person to person, but commonly include sleeping with silverware under one's pillow, throwing ice cubes out of a window or walking backward to bed," said Greg Carbin, branch chief of the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center in response to a request for information on Facebook. "These rituals are often performed with the goal of avoiding school or work the next day."

While Carbin admitted that these rituals are not corroborated or sanctioned by the American Meteorological Society, National Weather Service or National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, they are some of the most popular practices.

At the Colorado Ski Country USA offices in Denver, they put trail maps in the freezer to help bring on the snow, said Public Affairs Manager Chris Linsmayer.

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Other efforts that are accepted around the country include stacking pennies on your windowsill, with each penny a request for an inch of snow; wearing pajamas inside out to bed and repeating a snow chant. The words apparently do not matter in the chant; it's the personal plea that seems to be the most important.

Get your groove on

Then there's the snow dance. With both informal versions — dressing up like Elsa from "Frozen" and twirling a la Channing Tatum — to more time-honored versions, the snow dance is perhaps one of the most iconic pleas for snow.

Members of the Southern Ute Indian tribe have performed a snow ritual at the base of Vail Mountain not once, but four times since the resort opened in 1962.

In 2006, Eddie Box, Jr. and his family performed the ceremony as part of the Snow Daze festival; December 2006 saw a record (at the time) 96 inches of snowfall. Box, Jr., who first performed the ceremony with his father, Eddie Box Sr., in 1962, returned once again with his family in 2012 at the behest of Vail Resorts. The season started with the lowest snowfall in more than 30 years. However, it started snowing as the base of the Vista Bahn that day and more than 70 inches of snow fell in December 2012.

The dance was also performed in 1999, when the mountain was hosting the World Alpine Ski Championships. By all accounts, it was a very snowy year.

Pray to Ullr … or prepare for Murphy's

Though Thor may be having his most recent 15 minutes due to the Avengers movies, Ullr is perhaps the most famous member of the Norse pantheon to anyone living in a ski town. This god, who is frequently depicted wearing skis, has been deemed a god of snow by snow-colyltes everywhere. As a result, he is frequently called upon to deliver the white stuff in various ceremonies and celebrations, both large and small.

Ullr Fest, an annual celebration that takes place in Breckenridge each year, is perhaps the most well known, and it seems to work: the day of the parade is inevitably the coldest day of the year. However, it's possible to call upon the god individually, should the urge take you.

Most sources suggest acts of debauchery to attract the god's attention: sacrificing old skis, poles, under layers, etc., on a bonfire; repetitively toasting Ullr with liquor (try his namesake, a Nordic-style peppermint and cinnamon schnapps from a distillery in Oregon); or eschewing pants and sacrificing nether regions to the cold. Others compose lyrical verses that are meant to woo the Scandinavian divinity.

Of course, sometimes Ullr is busy skiing in Valhalla and visiting his devotees in the Alps.

At that point, it's worth visiting the Murphy's Law camp. A Murphy's Law states that "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong." With this in mind, many people believe that the snow will come when it's most inconvenient.

Have plans for an outdoor event? That's when the snow will come. Have you scheduled a tropical vacation and packed for that climate? It'll be snowing when you return in your flip-flops and T-shirt. Need to drive to Denver to catch a flight? No problem — Interstate 70 will be closed due to the blizzard that has descended. Make your plans, and Murphy will inevitably intervene.

Of course, most scientists claim there are no surefire ways to make the snow come — it will in its own time.

"Unfortunately, I am not well versed in snow rituals," admitted Joel Gratz, founder of Open Snow, in an email. "Mine is just staring at weather models on a laptop until the models say it'll snow."

Personally, I feel that it's better to be safe than sorry. If you need me, I'll be in my inside-out pajamas and snowboard boots, doling out ice cubes while chanting my snow mantra and praying to Ullr.

Do your part

There are many different approaches to bringing snow, some that seem to be regional and others that are more nationally — or internationally — recognized. Here are some of the tips and tricks for bringing snow; we suggest trying at least three for maximum effect.

• Sleep with pajamas inside out

• Wear your ski boots at all times

• Sleep with a spoon under your pillow

• Brush your teeth with the opposite hand

• Throw ice cubes out the window

• Take shaved ice and put it on bushes and trees

• Flush a minimum of six ice cubes down the toilet

• Pray to Ullr

Perform a snow dance

• Create a snow chant

• Wash and/or detail your car

• Spray fake snow on the windows