My 6-year-old daughter enjoys identifying her favorite ice cream, stuffed animal or best friend. Not long ago, she asked me what is my favorite season. At first...

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My 6-year-old daughter enjoys identifying her favorite ice cream, stuffed animal or best friend. Not long ago, she asked me what is my favorite season.

At first, I found it a difficult choice to make. But then I realized nothing gets my spirit soaring quite like tromping through deep snow in the mountains in winter.

Bullying along on snowshoes or skis, winter in the Cascades appears to me a chilly stew of paradoxes:


A deep silence that doesn’t seem at odds with crisp sounds as they travel over snow. I can hear the quiet for miles.

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A sleeping stillness so profound that even my thoughts seem to want to whisper, until I laugh as I watch a short-tailed weasel dashing here and there across the snow, then falling tail-over-teakettle into his all-but-invisible burrow.


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The ethereal beauty of snow that belies the danger it carries as it roars in avalanche.

I guess I was blinded by my love for winter when I decided to run up to Snoqualmie Pass to paint some landscapes. Parking near the Alpental ski area, I slung my paintbox over a shoulder, strapped on snowshoes and ventured up the Snow Lake trail.


Knowing I’d have trouble with watercolors in below-freezing temperatures, I brought along a bottle of rubbing alcohol to use as an antifreeze for my mixing water. Alas, my cleverness wasn’t clever enough, for as I began to paint, the alcohol evaporated in the dry, chilly air, leaving the wet paint to freeze into crystals on my paper: Jack Frost in living color.

PAUL SCHMID
The one field painting that survived the thaw intact: A frosty view of Chair Peak and Melakwa Pass near Alpental Ski Area.

Still, I managed to whip out a few small color studies by breathing warm air on my brush and palette to de-ice. These I eventually used, along with some photos I snapped, to work on paintings later in the comfort of home.

My field paintings, successful or not, are about spending time in the state’s magnificent outdoors. I came home with little accomplished other than a grand time. Not by any means a lost day.

Paul Schmid: pschmid@seattletimes.com