Wipers Up

Take a stroll down a mountain town main street or ski hill parking lot before a big dump, and every Subaru, Jeep and beater Toyota will have its windshield wipers raised like the arms of a referee signaling a touchdown. But these arms aren’t affirming six points, they’re asking for six inches. Or maybe 12. These raised blades aren’t necessarily a lesson in automotive practicality—they’re a sign of a wishful communal thinking.

Honestly, the actual benefit of raising wipers during a storm is negligible. It’s just not that difficult to clear a windshield of snow with a brush or even a forearm, no matter how you left your wipers the night before. A 20-second blast from the defrost thaws out blades stuck to the glass. Still, if I’m in a dirt ski hill lot full of raised wipers, I’ll raise mine too, every time—an act of winter solidarity that I hope Ullr won’t let go unnoticed.

This is when the ski community feels especially tight knit, like we’re part of something bigger than ourselves. The collective ritual of raising wiper blades shows that we’re all rooting for the same team here, rooting for a storm that’ll envelope the mountain in a blanket of fresh that hides the imperfect tracks of skiers’ past.

It’s the same kind of feeling as cheering with the crowd in some packed auditorium as opening credits roll on a November ski film, or standing in the lift line at 8:59 a.m. as the lifties start loading chairs on a powder day, or being in the midst of a melee slushball fight on closing weekend. It’s the same kind of feeling as the first real snowfall of autumn after a long, hot summer, when the wet flakes start to pile up on pine boughs, when the ski hills share wintery webcam views and even the most austere of friends become giddy with preseason excitement.

It doesn’t matter if it’s November or April, ski people are just happier when those plastic and rubber contraptions are pointed skywards. Almost more so than when actual powder is on the ground, people seem to be at their happiest during those moments before the storm, when that impending snowfall is still hypothetical, when a weather report on the news or a certain change in the winds has imaginations running wild and powder day planning in full effect.

Looking out over a lot full of car after car parked in neat rows, all with wipers pointed skyward, its reminiscent of people lined up in prayer. Maybe that’s exactly what it is. Who knows; if we get enough raised up toward the heavens, maybe we can even summon the storm.


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