Monday, January 07, 2008

The Hundred Words for Snow

Linguists debate whether the Arctic natives really have more terms for snow than we southerners do. In any case, all cultures that deal with snow develop their vocabulary for it.

In New England we often deal with a tan substance created by mechanically tilling and re-tilling the same patch of old snow and ice to create something slightly slipperier than a sidewalk. This is called "snirt." Snow and dirt, get it?

With December's bounty, we don't have to deal with much snirt right now. I just love the succinctness of it.

Each snow-using culture has their own take on snirt. Snow machiners refer to thawing trails with stretches of mud as snirt. Some ski technicians even group all man-made snows in the snirt category. This is because snirt is made up of shards of ice rather than anything that started out as a hollow, crystalline natural snowflake. For waxing purposes, man-made snow is as abrasive as 100 grit, much like the beige surface we produce on well-worn trails when new snow falls at long intervals.

Right now I'm working through all the terms for snot. Some bio-terrorist sleazebag managed to give me a nasty head cold just as I finally get a couple of days off from work. I stumbled through the last two days of 18, one of them our free on-snow demo. Huge crowds did not overwhelm us, but anything free brings out the kind of people who flock around anything free. When someone mentioned that we should have a banner out front to attract attention, I suggested we have some helium balloons that look like vultures circling overhead. Maybe next year.

Most of the season still lies ahead. Days are already noticeably longer, but January has just begun.

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