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First snow in Lausanne: MeteoSwiss (the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology) had warned of snowfalls starting from Saturday (especially in the German-speaking part of the country) and that a particularly violent local wind, called bise, would sweep across Lake Geneva at speeds of up to 80km (Offensive hivernale ce week-end avec bise noire en Suisse romande – onslaught of winter with strong bise in French-speaking Switzerland). However, given that their forecasts were wrong for Tuesday (which I had taken off, believing that we would be having some sun while we would visit the open-air museum of Ballenberg in the canton of Berne), I was little enclined to believe in the accuracy of their forecasts, especially since some temperature records had been reached in several places in Switzerland on Friday a little over a week ago.

Even though to be on the safe side, we went to the garden centre of Jumbo at Bussigny to buy a second plastic greenhouse for my wife’s beloved plants as I knew that we would need it at some point, the view I saw from the balcony when I got back slightly after six o’clock seemed to prove me right as there was only very little snow below.

However, the snow continued to fall and it did so more heavily, so that not even 15 minutes later, the patches of white had gained the upper hand over the  patches of green.

Twenty-five minutes from then and the whole area was covered in a thin layer of snow. However, as it was already dark we decided to wait until Sunday morning to put up the plastic greenhouse.

This strong northeast wind called bise did indeed come sweeping through our area in the early hours of the morning, as forecast by MeteoSwiss. The gushes of wind were so strong that they caused a highly disturbing rattle with the neighbour’s awnings above us.  Upon seeing how strong the wind was blowing and the snow that had fallen, my wife obeyed what she felt was her call of duty and courageously stepped out in the cold to wrap protective sheaths around some of the more vulnerable plants.

When we got up on Sunday, it was clear that it had continued to snow during the night as the whole area below us was white.

And the balcony was covered under a layer of snow, several centimetres deep at some places. My initial reaction was to pity my wife’s poor plants as we had failed to protect them against the early arrival of winter and as I feared this would probably kill them off. But this feeling quickly gave way to elation at the thought that I would be able to jog in the snow later on and probably also make a snowman with the snow on the balcony.

The first task I had to do in order to give the plants out on the balcony a chance to survive was to remove the snow. So I started to put the snow in a heap until I realised that I had enough to build a snowman.

On the suggestion of my wife, I opted for another spot for the snowman: one which would not obstruct the narrow passageway between the plants and the table. Moreover, the wife also persuaded me to make a bonnefemme de neige (snowwoman) as on the two previous occasions we had had some bonshommes de neige (snowmen) decorate our balcony. Strangely, we do not tend to make bonnesfemmes de neige here in winter. The reason for this probably has more to do with the association of winter with a male personification (and summer with a female personification) that dates back to the Romans (unless I am mistaken) rather than it should necessarily be construed as an example of male chauvinism in our culture (although of course one could make the point that this very dichotomy in the attribution of the personifications is intrinsically patriarchal: harshness (winter) = masculine; gentleness (summer) = feminine) …

Probably because of our recent trip to the open air museum of Ballenberg in the canton of Berne, I attempted to portray a woman in some traditional costume worn on special situations. However, I concede that the end result was not … really successful, shall we say? My bonnefemme de neige looked more like a cross between a monster from outer space (because of the head) and a Venus of Willendorf

… especially when set against the source of my inspiration … the mannequins dressed up in traditional costumes from various Swiss cantons that are displayed in the mansion built in the style of a chalet (originally located at Burgdof, canton of Berne, but now located less than five minutes’ walk from the Western entrance) at Ballenberg.

Having set up our new plastic greenhouse and put in it the plants that might still have a chance to survive, I felt that I had fulfilled my share of the ‘balcony chores’ and that I could now go for a … run on the snow.

I particularly enjoy running on the snow … but I seldom get to do so. Although our block of flats lies at approximately 680 metres above sea level and therefore in winter we do get snowfalls heavy enough to cover the ground, pavements (sidewalks in US English) here are normally cleared of the snow for safety reasons. Which is why in order to be able to enjoy the crunching noise of my feet crushing in the snow, I usually go to the woods of Jorat along the plain of Mauvernay (altitude of 850 to 860 metres) at Chalet à Gobet, provided there is enough snow up there (see for instance the entry I wrote in January on my wife’s blog). Unfortunately, during winter 2011-12, I did not get to enjoy many such runs as either there was not enough snow during the weekends (having slipped on some icy patches twice during a night run a couple of years ago, I decided not to go on such runs again during the week unless there would be a full moon — in which case the light provided by the moon on the snow is usually strong enough to be able to discern any potentially treacherous or dangerous spots on the course) or we were away on raquette excursions at Arolla or Säntis.

Of course, the snowfall on Sunday brought to my mind the question of whether the weather would be sufficiently cold to allow me to enjoy another crossing of the Lake of Joux on its frozen surface on my cross-country skis as I had done on 26 February of this year (you can read the entry here).

And of course also the question of whether I would be able to enjoy jogging along a frozen lakeside in Geneva (as I had done early in February, as recounted in an entry on my wife’s blog, entitled Geneva lakeside… icy wonderland…,  available here).

However, I decided to live for the present and go out and enjoy a run at a temperature below or close to zero degree Celsius … for 90 minutes. Had I not come across so many trees that the strong bise (a northeast wind that sweeps across the Léman basin sometimes very violently) had uprooted in the very early hours of Sunday morning, I would definitely have enjoyed every single minute of my run [PS the cans you can see me holding were for the recycling bin and the headlamp was for the last bit of my run as night falls upon us earlier now following yesterday’s switch to winter time].

Links to other entries (on this blog) on running near Lausanne in winter

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