In northern Michigan we herald winter’s arrival with swearing and a roadway slide.

The ritual slide ended in a traffic crash for nearly 100 people yesterday — which, even by first-snowstorm standards, is a lot.

The 61 snow- and ice-related traffic crashes reported in Grand Traverse County between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. Thursday, is much higher than what is usually reported during bad weather, said Capt. Randy Fewless from the Grand Traverse County Sheriff Department. Our surrounding counties reported baker’s dozens of minor crashes, rollovers, car versus trees and cars landing in ditches.

Most crashes were of the low-speed variety, with minor or no injuries reported.

Sigh.

Every year that first snowfall sends our tourists into tailspins and makes a mockery of our northern Michigan bravado.

We seem to approach our first big snow with smooth brains, free of recollection of how winter driving works.

“Why, with the first snow, do we race each other into the ditch?” lamented a reporter. Because we forget. Spring and summer’s warmth and gentle sun melts the cold steel core of our northern Michigan constitution, like it never existed.

Our authorities, who are extremely busy dealing with the weather-related crashes, are patient with us.

“This was the first freeze over snow we’ve had, so people need to be reminded to slow down,” said Benzie Sheriff Ted Schendel.

Yes, slow down. Pump brakes. Anticipate sliding in your car and others on the roads. Turn into the slide, etc.

By spring we’ll be hardened. Our blood will be thick. Former white knuckles will be callused. We will be driving the roads with the confidence that comes with a five-month winter.

Our winter driving prowess shines most at the time of year it’s needed least.

But for now, either hop on two wheels or slow down on four.