In the confluence of five valleys, the town’s air and precipitation defy accurate forecast — except in the most general of terms.
So when peaks surrounding the valley are crowned in white, air is crisp, and holiday cheer abounds, you’d expect the feeling to be Christmas. But, not quite this year.
Snow tires tore into Missoula’s dry asphalt a week into December.
It took a short drive to the hills to kick through snow. Difficult to greet this Season in town without snowflakes dusting your wool cap, and a scarf’s tug bracing the chill.
And then it happened. As if on cue during the monthly Art Walk on December’s First Friday, amidst the revelers downtown.
Great blustery swirls of heavy, wet flakes filled the beacons of streetlight. Roadways transformed during the short visit to an art gallery — as if elves finally had their fill of seasonal dark brews and went back to work. Crunchy white sidewalks appeared by magic, and strollers became daubed in white by an unseen hand. Art direction to order, and in haste — though Jimmy Stewart did not run down Higgins Avenue (above) shouting “Merry Christmas!”
In an hour — a routine event on a brisk evening suddenly bloomed into celebration of Christmas and art and music.
Smiles widened, laughter deepened, and the pace hastened between venues. As snow stacked onto decorations, softening the illumination of festive color, it finally felt like Christmas in town. The last bow onto Missoula’s Holiday.
Next morning, naked branches sang with snowy delight that Jack Frost came to visit, and finally the valley floor could match the brilliance of surrounding hills in 2012’s return of Old Man Winter.