Anticipation of early snow: savor it, and hold on to it.

We have not had much snow yet this winter, and so in some ways we still have that feeling of ‘first-snow-anticipation.’

The moment when the first snowflakes fall is a kind of magic time when so many people – look up! People become aware of the sky in a way they are usually not. It is the thrill of something we are not familiar with, since we usually go around seven months without seeing any snowfall. I think of the moment in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” when the children run around in wonder, and some try to catch a snowflake on their tongue. We may just be focused on catching glimpses and memories, but the principle is similar…

And when snow coats the ground for the first time of the season, suddenly utterly transforming the landscape? Snow remakes our visual world…

There are scientific reasons why early snows can be more exciting than mid-winter ones. For those who love watching big flakes come down, remember that, as Bernd Heinrich writes, “Snow falling early in the winter usually forms the largest flakes. Later in the season, when temperatures are lower, the ice crystals spawned by the clouds adhere to one another less readily. These crystals in colder air are brittle and constant collisions on the way down degrades them or smashes their intricate and beautiful structures.” (Winter World, page 23.)

I am pretty much a little happy every time snow falls, and excited when there is a lot of snow in the sky. But I realize that everyone does not retain that enthusiasm throughout the winter. So I suggest – pay attention to your anticipation. This is one of those points in the year when we watch nature, waiting for the weather to deliver something to us which we are waiting for. Roll this joy and enthusiasm around inside. I hope this will light a fire which you can keep burning throughout the winter!

About MilwaukeeSnow

Dr. Jeffrey Filipiak, Milwaukee's Ambassador of Snow, loves winter, Milwaukee, and environmental history! He has taught college courses on topics including history, writing, environmental ethics, food studies, the Great Lakes, and sustainability. You can contact him at
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