Snow in Hawai‘i?

Probably the last thing that comes to mind when you think about Hawai‘i is snow. In fact, you may have had to shovel 3 feet of snow from your car before going to the airport to catch your flight here. There are few places in the world where you can bundle up in a hat, gloves and a jacket, take a boogie board up to the top of a 13,000+ foot mountain, use it as a sled, and then within a few hours, strip down to your swim trunks, (or bikini depending on your preference) and use that very same boogie board to catch a couple waves. It’s a unique experience that can only be had on the Big Island of Hawai‘i.

Not too long ago we had a snow storm on Mauna Kea, so we dutifully got our warm clothes together and made our way towards the summit, hoping that by the time we reached the visitor center (somewhere around 9,000 ft.) the road to the top would be cleared of snow and safe to drive. Unfortunately, the road wasn’t open for three days later, but that’s a whole other story.

So we decided to drive up to the Mauna Loa observatory on the opposite side of Saddle rd.  We could see that there was a good amount of snow up there, so it was worth a try. Just as we turned from Saddle rd. onto the Mauna Loa observatory road, we saw an abandoned, very badly damaged surfboard lying amongst the sharp chunks of a‘a lava. Hmmm, that looks like fun. So, we strapped it to the roof and off we went in search of the elusive “pineapple powder” (as it’s referred to by skiers and snowboarders.)

One thing we hadn’t counted on, was the fact that the snow had undergone at least one thaw and re-freeze, so as fluffy and inviting as it looked, it was more like a giant, white ice skating rink. We quickly decided, that sliding down the side of a 13,000 ft. volcano at 45 mph on an old surfboard would be an amazing experience. Upon closer inspection, and careful consideration, we decided against it for one simple reason…stopping. The end of this particular stretch of hard pack ice ended in the center of a completely exposed a‘a lava field. Just to give you an idea of the nastiness of these rocks, just imagine any typical granite stone, and then glue a handful of razor blades to it and you have a‘a lava.  We decided to settle for a picture of our tattered, orphaned surfboard sitting in anticipation of some future day, when conditions favor crashing through pineapple powder grinning like children in a toy store.

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“In April we spent a week on the Big Island, with a well-thumbed copy of “The Big Island Revealed” always close at hand. It’s a great book, very helpful…I checked out every reasonably current guidebook in our library and studied more of them at the bookstore. Yours was the only one I actually bought. The thing that made it a sale, beyond your “tell it like it is” approach and your sense of humor, was your maps. I’m very fussy about my maps, and I don’t need to tell you there are lots of bad ones out there. And putting those mile posts on yours is one of those touches that seems obvious, once you think about it, but they are seldom included. I’m glad you did…Thanks for your help in making it a terrific vacation.”

- J. Reed