You can gauge the proximity of spring by watching crocus blossoms advance and snow patches recede.
In Baker City we supplement those seasonal signs with the arrival of school buses at Baker High School, the squeak of sneakers on hardwood and the shrieks of basketball fans.
Early March brings the Class 1A state girls and boys basketball tournament to town.
This four-day event - it started today - showcases the best basketball teams from Oregon's smaller high schools, but it's also a boon to the local economy.
The influx of hundreds of players, coaches and fans fills local motels, restaurants and retail businesses a couple months before the summer tourism season begins.
For some visitors it's their first trip to Baker City, and some are so impressed by our scenery and hospitality that they come back for a vacation that doesn't involve sitting on wooden bleachers for several hours each day.
The volunteers who organize the district basketball tournament recently negotiated a four-year contract for that event. They hope to announce the same deal for the state tournaments later this week.
We hope they succeed, and that early March will remain hoops week in Baker City for many years to come.