Snow is not just Snow

28 Jan 2023

If you have grown up in a country where snow is just a sporadic thing that happens in some years, it makes your world white for a bit , looks nice, sucks for traffic and public transport and then it turns into a black/brown slush that lies around for a few more days and disappears again, you would be forgiven for thinking

"Snow is snow" ("Sneg je Sneg").

You may have already heard that famously silly anecdote that people who wish to open a conversation with others but don't know what to say use:

"did you know that Eskimos have more than 20 different names for Snow?"

It's one of those
"oh really? you don't say!"
kind of things because it sounds odd to most people...
"20 bloody names for snow? Are thes people daft or what? Snow is snow!"

The tough little Inuit people of the Arctic North often called "Esquimo" or "eaters of raw fish" (by people obviously not of their own tribe) have have tonnes of different types of snow (and names for them)

 Any people  who are accustomed to long months of snow in any country where snow is a serious yearly thing have ways of identifying different types of snow
Because it can manifest itself in various ways and take over all daily life for months of the year and turn the whole winter into a very different world compared to the summer...

And when you somehow manage to end up in the mountains and choose to live in it yourself  ... then you realise that there are actually MANY different types of snow!

We just don't have the right names for them anymore...

so I've decided to name the different types of snow for ease of communication in OUR culture.

here's a list

Frizzle Snow:  

tiny little flecks of powdery icey bits, that cling to little cracks and crevices in everything and give an "impression" of snow without actually covering anything much.
it always heralds very Cold days and the formation of Ice on roads, paths and such.

Snegel Snow:

a form of snow that falls when it is still too warm, half rain half ice crystal, it falls wet and heavy but melts as soon as it hits anything, making everything muddy but not permanently white.

Unless it turns into:

Aww!  Snow:
When the snow flakes become more defined and cling together more this happens.
The type of soft, sticky and pretty snow that is cold enough to stay and can fall thickly and cover the world in a night turning it into an "Aww!" beautifull white sparkly fairytale (especially if the sun is allowed to hit it)
These smallish but floaty snow flakes make a layer of a few centimetres that are still easily walkable and pose no real problem to good boots or snow tires to get across. No snow shovelling needed.
This snow is great to make small snowballs, which you can throw at your cat if it is considering killing and eating poor, hungry, stressed-out little birds. The results are always satisfactory as you see him run for cover under the car.

Ooh! Snow:
This is like Aww! Snow  but more persistent and slightly bigger flakes which will stick to everything, houses, plants, sheep, trees, each other...
"Ooh!" Snow will form a thick layer on everything.
This is the perfect snowball and snowman building material. It's the story book stuff, wheel barrows and suchlike will not work anymore, but it is possible to transport things (like firewood) across it with a simple sled. It's good for ski-walking but will give some problems to crosscountry walking which will become very heavy because you keep sinking into this soft fluffy stuff, snowshoes are still useless and will you will need a 4x4 vehicle with good winter tires to drive accross it.

You also need to start shovelling snow to make paths through it...

This snow is great to make bigger heavier snowballs which you can throw at your cat if it is still considering killing and eating poor, hungry, stressed-out little birds at the bird feeding table, the resultant SPLAT! as the snow hits and he runs for the safety of the house is a joy to watch each time!

OHFuck! Snow:
This is like "Ooh!" Snow, but in much bigger amounts and with bigger, stickier flakes.
This snow can build up layers that are so heavy that Trees (especially gnarly ones standing out in the open, like your precious fruit trees) will start breaking branches because of the weight of accumulated snow which can stick and cling to anything.
Roof guttering can bend right back if the pile is huge enough on your roof.
It becomes impossible to walk outside, unless you dig paths and tunnels through the white mass, because you will sink through this stuff and if it goes beyond your knees, you can't really push through anymore for more than a few metres without using enormous amounts of energy. It makes driving impossible for anything except a tractor or a jacked-up 4x4 jeep with serious crosscountry tires (like ours) that can push through the heavy packed-up mass and keep a grip on the slippery lower layers of Ice below it.
Shovelling Snow every day (more than once) to keep your movement paths open.
Great snow to sit in naked if you are into cold therapy...
Also this snow is great to throw your cat into if he is still considering killing and eating those poor, hungry, even more stressed-out little birds at the bird feeding table that you made to help them with. Tthe resultant SPLOOF!! as he sinks over a foot down into the cold sticky snow and the resultant desperate scrabbling of those furry little paws as he tries to get himself out of that cold white fluffy wet stuff is a heart warming and uplifting gift to warm you on a cold day. The speed with which he reaches the door leaving a trail of white crystals is simply amazing to behold.

Err, help? Snow:
Like "OH FUCK!" Snow, but in even bigger amounts... past your hips and middle... The land turns into a kind of very cold blobby Marshmellow land without clear features anymore...
This is when it stops being :

"Oh look I have snow which has fallen onto my surrounding enviroment!"
"Oh fuck, It seems that Snow has become my enviroment..."

And this isn't a movie... this is real

When this snow hits you are stuck in your shelter, because going out becomes a very tricky and dangerous affair.
It's freezing cold outside (again, great for the sitting naked in the cold -training)
Walking without a dug out path or tunnel is impossible, the sled is impossible, snowshoes will still sink right down through it ...
so also not an option...
Not even a 4x4 jeep can plough through this anymore unless it is an actual heavy tractor with a heavy duty snowplough on it!  

Here's when you need to shovel snow like it's going out of fashion, just to be able to walk around your homestead and outbuildings  or to be able to water and feed your chickens).
This snow is simply the best snow to throw your cat into!!, if he is still (after all those warnings) considering killing and eating those poor, hungry, cold and even more stressed-out little birds at the bird feeding table! oh yes!  It simply brings a smile to your face and a seasonal glow to your heart to see that evil little expression of joyfull anticipation of slaughter and hunting-lust turn into a wide eyed look of horror as you throw him high in an arc at an extra deep fluffy mountain of snow... ah!.. that fuzzy little panicked face disappearing into a clinging metre or more of freezing winter wonderland snowbath! ... it brings tears to the eyes...
The following impressive explosion of glittery white stuff as he rises vertically out of the crystalline depths frantically scrabbling for dear life to get purchase on the soft crumbling snow and then streaking like a hairy bat out of hell into the shelter of the house!'s is just indescribable... the birds love it!... they all applaud!

Crunchy snow:
When there has been a bit of melting and then some more hard freezing, you get this first stage of the crunchy family, it doesn't really change much to the layer of Err?Help! except that it gets this very thin layer which goes crrrrunch! when you try to walk through it, not strong enough to support any weight yet... also it becomes really heavy to shovel now because of the ice in it, the snow becomes less fluffy underneath,more powdery. Still just about usefull for snowball or catbath purposes but there is a change happening

Crunchy powder snow:

When a bit more slow thaw happens followed by a deepening frost the Crunchy snow will sink in slightly and become more icy as well as develop a very thin, brittle, candy-like layer on the top. Small light creatures (like our cat,Churt) can use this layer to run across the surface without sinking through, but big heavy creatures (like deer and US) will sink through, if it happens during Err?Help! snow it sux  for any kind of movement on foot or by vehicle.
Sadly this snow is less usefull to throw your cat into (he would just bounce off) or to make snowballs with (too dry and powdery) so the bird death count can start to go up again now UNLESS the cat has to spend many more bored frustrated hours staring out the window, locked into the house untill darkness falls... then he is free to go out to hunt down and slaughter small, cute, furry creatures instead of feathered creatures, oh the life of a hunter! is so much easier to hunt in the wolf months of winter!

Crunchy Snow-Shoe Snow:

This is when Crunchy snow, melts a little more and then freezes like a very cold freezy thing...a little more each day, so that it will thus develop a thicker harder layer on top which makes it perfect for snow shoe walking. Most of the trees have lost their snow which has also fallen on the great piles already there, making them less dangerous except for the chuncks of Ice that still cling on to branches here and there.
So more movement is now possible away from your shelter with the aid of those Tennis Racket like flat things strapped to your feet...

snow shoes...

It feels really weird to walk across these thick layers but it is so cool!
A walk in the forest is just otherworldly at this time!
At this stage the Cat leaves the snow littered with bleeding little mouse corpses and other unfortunate fuzzies as he sprints happily from snow hole to snow hole and mouse tunnel to mouse tunnel over this perfect surface for silent winter hunting...
the little bastard!....
(but he's sooo cute though!)

SlushPuppy Snow:

This is a Fast Melting, warmer weather-change Snow (of any type), when the heat turns it all into water and the land becomes a muddy wet mushy mess of wet clingy pseudo-snow that will soak you to the bone if you fall into it. Movement becomes crap again, snow shoes are useless and walking sucks untill the height is low enough to move over or through.
It has no real Cat pacifying possibilities, but, the birds and the mice can breathe easily now,
because our evil murderous Cat hates this wet horrible slushy stuff which makes his pretty fluffy paws all cold, wet and uncomfortable... hehehe...

but that will probably be later in the year... we'll see.

Today It's sort of "OHFuck! - crunchy - snowshoe - snow"...
so I decided to strap them on (the snow shoes ofcourse) and go for a "walk" on the snow and up the hill into the forest...


that was freaky!
It's like floating in a way or walking on water...
sort of ...
hard to describe...
you know you are sort of suspended above the memory of the ground...
it's down there somewhere,but completely invisible ...
you are walking on a giant sugar icing topping on the biggest cake in the world...

you have to climb up onto the snow (about a meter around here now)
and then slowly walk across the crunchy ice layer on top, without stamping or moving too fast or you will sink through, ofcourse you do this with these flat wide snowshoes on (with spikes)

They are kind of weird to walk with ,much heavier than normal cross country walking, but you get used to it after a while. And then you enter a world that is really an other reality... a reality bereft of humans, but covered in wildlife tracks... just amazing.
the winter forest , dead quiet in deep snow and Ice,
each familiar path now looks different,
all the edges are soft and blurred ,
except the sword-straight long icicles which have formed on every overhang and throughout the course of the mountain streams...

 just wow!...

But anyway, that is far as our snow lessons have gotten us,
we have identified and named these as a start (for our cultural heritage)

So now you can drop in conversations when you have nothing particular to say but still wish to make an abstract comment to show how world wise and educated you are on various subjects....
then just say:

You: "Did you know that in TERRA OMNIA they have more than 10 different names for snow?"
your audience: "...really? Ten different names you say? ... is that true?"

You: "Yes! A Terra Omnian Shaman told me so himself!"

and that just leaves me to say:

Greenthingz! (underneath the snow)
Steve Sic