Powder. Graupel. Sugar. Slush. Dust-on-Crust. Smud. Corn…. They are all descriptions of snow and there are as many descriptions as there are incarnations of our winter friend.
We may see mountains of white, but that all changes as soon as we put snowshoe to trail, ski to track, or snowboard to half-pipe. Even taking a short daily walk off the beaten path will give us intimate awareness of this mutable element. Sometimes the changes are subtle, sometimes drastic, but snow is always transforming itself: an expression of nature’s insistent motion.
How our own motion adapts to these changes is up to us, but there is always priceless wonder in whatever lies at our feet. All we have to do is show up prepared in mind and body. Dressing correctly is, of course, essential. Yet, our outlook is just as vital. When we’ve had a string of ‘freshies’, days filled with luscious new snow for the taking, it might require a little tweaking to readjust our expectations when we are faced with those bullet-proof surfaces that come with sunny days and freezing nights. But where else can we experience such an abundance of blue skies smack dab in the middle of a mountain winter? Northern New Mexico is famous for her glorious sunshine, and we should revel in it.
Every type of snow has something to offer if only we open ourselves to the possibilities. Many of my all-time most memorable runs were in the unlikeliest of conditions: when I stepped into my snowshoes and embraced the “chowder” beneath me, letting go the tendency to label certain types of snow as good or bad. It’s all exactly how it is supposed to be, after all. Winter delivers a grab bag of surprises. We might as well feast on the smorgasbord.
Who doesn’t love those picture-perfect days that seem straight out of a ski magazine? They are our gold standard. They solidify our point of reference for whatever a quintessential winter day might mean to each of us. Quite simply, they are splendid. But remembering to love snow in all its many forms is the most genuine testament to being a winter enthusiast. There’s just no room for snow snobbery when it comes to truly enjoying the season.
So strap on your snowshoes, your skis, your snowboard, or your winter boots. Throw on a big grin and get out there. Whether it’s chop, pellets, or fresh powder, it’s all snow!
Editor’s Note: Laurie Lambert can be found trail snowshoeing and running from her part-time home up East Fork in the Upper Red River Valley. This essay is reprinted from Winter Enchantment 2014-15, a publication of the Sangre de Cristo Chronicle.