The history of snow

winter roadThe darkest day is not in the mid-winter but right before the first winter snow. Few things can transform a landscape so completely as the first snow. What once was a muddy grey-black darkness is now sparkling in bright white and blue, every lost ray of light reflected and multiplied.

As I have moved north my winters have become longer and whiter but I still live southerly enough that the bright winters are threatened. As the climate warms they will shorten in both ends, light snow transform into dreary rain and sleet, causing not only ecological and hydrological changes but also cultural ones.

Reading The History of Snow (Snöns historia) by Mats Ekdahl was therefore a melancholy pleasure. The author wanders from literature to science, from polar exploration to winter warfare, from winter sport to art, in his attempt to provide a full portrait of snow and ice. Along the way he encounters a broad range of characters, among them Fridtjof Nansen and Ernest Hemingway, Simone de Beauvoir and Pava-Lasse Tuorda, Cora Sandel and Olaus Magnus, Louis Agassiz and Lindsey Vonn.

It is thus a very broad text, never as in-depth as I would have liked, but always interesting and intelligent, covering the historical and cultural significance of snow and showing us the things we may lose. I hope it will eventually get an English translation, until then i recommend it to anyone who can read it in Swedish.

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