The Sensation of Snow

You know that energising excitement that builds up in your body whenever you picture those amazing winter wonderlands in your mind? Or how joyful you get when scooping the masses of white flakes over the tip of your boots whenever taking a step? This is exactly what I am going to explain in this input of the blog.

Photo by: Helene R. Kappelgaard

“It’s snowing!” someone is bursting out across the classroom and surely it is. Big flakes are falling loosely from the sky and start to cover everything it touches. After an hour and a half, it is finally time to encounter the first meeting of the year with the snow. The sun is covered by the white clouds but the light from above reveals the individual snowflakes from meters away in the air. I embrace the moment of the first steps into the flowing ice and gaze up into the sky. I spot a flake that slowly floats down from far up high only to land on the upper part of my chin. The sensation of an ice-cold feathery touch feels like a pure relief after I have been sitting for hours in the university. One by one, the flakes start kissing my forehead, eyelids and nose and hereafter melt to small

Photo by: Helene R. Kappelgaard

drops that pave their way down my face. I lift my hand to catch a few and the same feeling takes place in my hand. I once read that every single snowflake differs from another, which means none of them are exactly the same, so I take a closer look to approve or reject the hypothesis. It is very difficult because as soon as they take their landing, they melt into watery drops with only a few single seconds to observe their unique shapes and sizes. When standing completely still it is even possible to hear the snowflakes land on my hair and jacket. Memories of my childhood start flashing through my mind of how we used to ride the sledges downhill or how we would make snow angels in the garden and afterwards lay there and gaze up into the empty white and try and catch the flakes with the tip of our tongues. It might be years ago, but I still get that excited and happy feeling whenever I see the first snow falling.

Photo by: Helene R. Kappelgaard

This is one of the things that no one can ever buy, demand or control. It is simply one of the things we can only wish for and cherish whenever it arrives and year after year, it still keeps that one little piece of our inner child and makes the sensation of the first snow just as unique and exciting as when we were cheerful and carefree children.

What snow gives to me

Alta, a small city in arctic region of Norway. In this land, snow start falling from mid-October to end of April usually. People in Alta looks they know how they live with snow in wintertime and how to welcome the arrival of winter unlike me, as an international student from Japan, a temperate zone of the earth. There are also tourists who coming to Alta even in polar night season, since Alta is one of the popular tourism places to see northern light. I am going to talk three reasons that what snow gives us to me based on my own experience.

First of all, I came to realize that, when the snow start falling, the land turn into totally different place which is covered with beautiful white snow, compare to it in summertime. The appearance is different, while in summertime, you see the beautiful landscape of Norway with the color of green nature and midnight sun warm up the people, in wintertime, the landscape become the color of pure white and the snow reflects the sunlight, and make the day more vibrant. For me, snow makes me feel I’m in the arctic. I talk to neighbors often and none of them hate winter. They say winter is the most beautiful season in Alta.

Continue reading “What snow gives to me”

How snow brings joy

There are two types of people born during winter, those who absolutely hate the season and wish they were born in the summer so they could celebrate outside, and the winter children, who love the season and enjoy all sorts of activities related to cold and snow. I happen to be the second one, the winder child.

Winter has always been an exciting season for me. Ever since I was little, waking up to first snow of the year has been one of the best experiences; the crunching of fresh snow under my feet, the red nose and being fully tucked in my winter gear gives the feeling of home and comfort.

Now being in Alta, winder has developed a new meaning to me. Back home for a regular child, winter was all about skiing, sledding and skating, but here in Northern Norway, it’s more than that. Other than the three things mentioned, it’s also about dog sledging, active outdoor life with fat biking and the northern lights. I had not experienced these things at all or to a sufficient enough level to consider them part of my winter experiences. The desire to go out to experience winter has been greater than ever and it brings me joy more than before.

I have been to warmer climates during winter and it just has not felt the same. There is something about the 20+ degrees and sunshine that does not go with the word “winter”. Winter symbolises me snow, clarity, comfort and new beginnings. Especially new beginnings; while it does get dark in my home country and we get daylight only for a few hours, the polar night gives a new meaning to the definition “new beginning”. In January, when the sun comes up again, you do feel like there is a new year and a chance given to you to do something great or have a fantastic year.

Perhaps I get the feeling of a new beginning in winter because my birthday is in January, which actually starts a new circle in my life, but even if I did not, I believe I would get the same feeling. It is this season, that I feel the most connected and part of nature. It’s the natural comfort and joy that appears; that is how I experience snow.

Winter in the north

Temperatures have been dropping in Alta. Once the top of a mountain gets covered with snow, people in Alta think believe that winter would come sooner or later. This year, in the middle of October, we received our first snow of the season in Alta. Snow is one of the most important elements in the winter season in Norway. We can go skiing, build a snowman, or just enjoy the beautiful white moment.

In the Northern Norway, the winter starts in November and ends in April (Heimtun, 2015). But this year the winter season has come to Alta earlier since snow has already covered everywhere in October. I am really surprised with it. I had never had snow in October before I came to Alta. I am from Japan and we have only few days of snow falling between December to February in my hometown. Snow was quite special for me when I was in Japan because it was rare. Here in Alta a huge amount of snow is everywhere in the winter season. I still like snow, but it becomes a normal stuff for me now.


Alta is a good destination in the winter season because we can see northern lights and we can do a lot of winter activities. But I expected that winter in Alta was very dark and people got depressed because Alta has the polar night for two months in the winter. I would say that the winter in Alta is not darker than I expected. This is because there are a lot of snow everywhere. Snow makes the city white and bright. Last November, it was quite dark because there was no snow, but once we got snow on the road, it became brighter. The polar night is dark, and it makes many people depressed. But it is not very bad as long as we have snow.


Granås (2018) mentions that climate and snow conditions in Finnmark are unpredictable. It suddenly starts snowing, becoming colder, becoming a strong wind. Sometimes it becomes -30 ℃. So, you need to carefully choose what clothing is proper for the day. In the winter season, I would say that Crocs, which is my everyday shoes, shows itself at its best. Many people believe that Crocs is not proper on the snow. But in my opinion, Crocs has great grip even on the road covered with snow. Crocs is sometimes better than the trekking shoes in the city centre. One of my friends who wore trekking shoes slipped and fell down on an icy road, but I did not although I wore Crocs. But you should not put too much confidence in Crocs. Of course, your feet get frozen if you are outside for one hour with Crocs and you get a little bit snow coming inside to Crocs. Crocs is not proper shoes for outdoor activities. But no problem with just 5 minutes walking to university and study.

Each person has different feeling for snow. And snow bring winter and polar night in Norway, which are annoying for some people. But snow has some good roles to a certain extent. You can even enjoy the dark season with sno w. Anyway, just bear in mind, CROCS!!!


The Winter Tranquility

It usually comes slowly, taking its time. At first, it quietly decorates the top of Haldde mountain, while staying away from the city itself. The locals already know what it means – one month from now, it will descend from its desolated mountain outpost and storm Alta with spontaneous rage, covering everything under a heavy and cold quilt.

Radoslaw Ostrycharz © 2019

Snow is an inherent part of our lives in Alta. Whether we like it or not, all of us have to live with it. It provides fun for children, trouble for drivers, opportunity for tourism operators and delight for the international visitors, who come to Finnmark with great numbers each year.

Local residents have mastered the art of controlling this product of winter. Everyday we can see powerful snowplows doing everything they can to keep the streets and sidewalks of Alta clear and passable. Tireless inhabitants of one-family houses take their exercise with a shovel each morning in order to save their homes from becoming buried in a white tomb.

While the snow creates a lot of inconvenience, it also provides us with plenty of opportunities. It would be hard to imagine building a ski resort functioning without it and making a snowman by using mud would sure be messy. More and more cruise ships are coming to Alta each year, filled with tourists craving to experience the authentic ‘Winter Wonderland’. Their growing numbers attract investors, who open their businesses, contributing to the local economy and creating workplaces that are much needed for us, students.

Radoslaw Ostrycharz © 2019

When I go outside into the winter landscape, I feel calm. The snow muffles sound and noises. Getting away from the city’s commotion, you can experience the perfect tranquility. It feels like the whole nature decided to take a break from never-ending cycle of life and death and go to sleep for couple of months. With not much going around, it is a perfect opportunity to calm down, sit alone somewhere in the forest and think of all the things that you never have time for. The snow always listens carefully, with no interruptions and responds with silence. It’s up to you, how you interpret it.

Radoslaw Ostrycharz © 2019

The Sensation of Snow

“How do people experience snow for those is busy with working or spending much time studying”?  Or “are they proud of themselves that they are used to grow up in urban cities and have no earlier experiences”?  These are rhetorical questions. They do not have particular answers in experiencing snow. When new visitors (most likely travelers or new students) are coming to Alta, several questions were raised. How is the experience of having snow? How do you find yourself in a dark period?  How life in Alta gives you a sort of input? We should have 24 hour night magic for several months. We should challenge to go outside and have snow with all our different senses. Sensibilities are a part of the phenomenology. It comes with previous experiences.

The summer type of people feels more important to have safety not to have environmental risks and climate restrictions than authentic experiences, Heimtun (2015). It is a statement to convince “how summer people feel the snow, fantasize about experiencing the snow.” For the next two paragraphs, I am going to have illustrations related to experiencing snow and how I could experience snow from my point of view.

Finnmarkslopet, this dog-sledding competition, is the biggest race in Europe.  Huskies are a bit excited to run the straight main street in the city scene while mushers pull the ropes to let them calm down. It was way too cold outside to see the startline; my body was freezing. When the race was kicked off, the first dog team was moving forward; dogs were energetic enough to run the snow paths. From that moment,  I could learn how tourism in Alta is taken place. I could sense the snow from the actual dog-sledding tour too.

Video clip: Finnmarkslopet_1200 kilometer hundesledekjøring.

Back to considerations about how summer people evaluate experiences in winter and having snow,  they are most likely to be offended by natural factors. Likewise, they feel unsafe to sacrifice themselves to being cold. When having a strong wind or snowstorm is coming, people feel more uncomfortable with having a winter season and snow too.

Video clip:

The sensation of snow or winter is vital to have such diverse experiences. The snowflakes are never be disappeared here in Alta in winter.  Some people may be fed up with snow, or others feel a dilemma about going to school during the dark season. Some friends told me so. Yet, it is significant that a piece of winter can be discovered even in the city scene. For instance, there was an exhibition of ice sculptures and food fairs during the last winter period, December and March. Besides, we are possible to explore and have senses of snow like hiking. Even when we are walking around the city, it gives us emotions of respect to nature to have experiences of snow. Interestingly, we can leave our footprint on the snow. In this way, we would be able to have senses of snow, what winter is coming.

Photo: Walking tour from the Arctic Tourism Management class.

Snow in the Arctic

Snow is a common thing found in Alta and Norway every winter season anew but not in all parts of the world alike. People who never experienced snow have a different perception than people who have it every year and are used to it. When I experienced snow this year, it first came a little bit, melted, then there came more and it finally stayed. Snow is the ultimate indicator that the summer and the short autumn are over. When the snow comes, it gets darker earlier already and the snow helps to light up the mørketid. I perceive snow thereby as something positive, since the lack of light is something I am not used to coming from Germany.


The air is drier in winter, everything moves slower and the falling snow takes away the smell from the trees and dampens down the sound so everything is quieter in winter, too. The snow is providing several winter activities like sledding with the dogs, skiing or winter hiking and fat biking for example. It covers up all the colors and makes for a monochrome visual experience. All the hard shapes in architecture and nature get rounded when covered with snow. The slippery surface of ice and snow can be used in winter sports but is also a danger for the pedestrian; especially in the transitional phase of the season, where snow melts and freezes again.

To sum up my impression of snow, I would say that I see snow as something I could not imagine Alta without. The snow lights up the dark times, it calms down noises, it makes for fun activities and is an impressive visual experience, too. It reflects the light of the Northern lights and is deeply connected to the view of the North in general.

It is a part of Norway, just like the midnight sun and reindeer.


The Sensation of Snow

How I experience snow

I was three years old when I had skis on my feet for the first time. I grew up with snow in Finland and if I spend a winter somewhere else than in the north, I do miss the snow. It’s towards the end of October and the snow has just arrived to Alta – and I could not be happier. This essay is on how I and one interviewee experience snow, and how the experiences are connected to Heimtun’s (2015) affective images on winter.

The way I experience snow most of the time is through joy. It gives many opportunities to play outside; skiing, snowboarding, skating, sledding, building snowmen, and so on. The air feels clean and fresh and it’s easy to breathe. I identify myself as a “winter person”, as Heimtun (2015) describes in her article “Tourists’ Affective Perceptions of a Cold Destination: Feelings Toward Northern Norway in the Winter”. The winter people have positive feelings about the winter and what comes with it. In this instance, especially the snow and activities related to that.

For me the slowly falling snow is gorgeous. When you stand outside during a snowfall and stay silent, you can hear the snowflakes dropping on your jacket. Then when you move around, you can hear the snow creaking under your feet (sound record). It is always a reminder of home.

Occasionally you can see the clear shapes of the snowflake and if you love small details as I do, you can spend a lot of time on examining all the unique snowflakes. I find the more snow the better. It is a beautiful sight when everything gets frosted with snow. The mountains, the streets, the trees. It’s also about the small things that make me glad; the prints of paws on my porch reveals that the neighbour’s cat has paid a visit. The snow also gives plenty of light. The evenings and early mornings don’t feel as dark because the snow reflects the light.

I interviewed Yannick about how he experiences snow. Yannick did not grow up with snow in Germany. Sometimes during the winter it snowed there but it did not stay on the ground. He says it is a positive thing that the snow has arrived and he is happy about the light it gives: “I’m glad the snow is not black. That would make it very depressing in the winter”. One thing he found to be a pity though. He likes driving his bicycle and he finds it too dangerous to continue now because of the possibility to slip and fall. Heimtun (2015) also described two other affective images, the “summer people” and “ambivalent people”. The summer people see the winter more in a negative way. They focus on the aspects that it is too cold, dark and dangerous as an example. The ambivalent people were somewhere in between the previous two. They found the winter is pleasing to some extent but they are not so excited about every aspect of it. I would suggest that Yannick could be identified as an “ambivalent person”. He was saying similar things about the light as an interviewed German woman in the Heimtun’s (2015) article. She described how the darkness and snow creates a special atmosphere and light, and that it makes her feel secure. Yannick also saw some aspects of the snow and winter to be dangerous, similar to the “summer people”.

It is of course given that different people have different experiences with snow. For me, because I grew up with snow and found the joy of it at an early age, it is easy to enjoy and appreciate it now. Which I full heartedly recommend – especially if you live in a place where the snow comes already in October!


The first fall of snow is not only an event, but it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of world and wake up to find yourself in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment, then where is it to be found? J. B. Priestley 1894–1984 English novelist, dramatist, and critic: Apes and Angels (1928) ‘First Snow’

Snow has different meanings around the world. People build snow igloos as shelters, snow hotels for tourists or it is a playground for winter sports or simply part of daily life. However, the geographic position of each country plays an important role in how people perceive snow.

The white past time

I was born in Romania, near a national park called Retezat. It has the highest number of mountain peaks over 2,000 m in Romania. In those mountains, I spent all my winter times during childhood. Winters for me were always white and snowy. I remember playing in the snow with my friends from morning to evening until our feet and hands were nearly frozen. I used to put snow on my face to cool down or just eat it when I was thirsty. And, I also remember the days when my friends and I were sitting on the top of the car so it could go up the mountain road to reach the ski slopes. Sometimes, the car would get stuck in the snow and then we had to walk for approximately one or two hours with our skies in the back. Once back home, my father used to wait for me with oven-baked potatoes and butter. I used to eat everything without even breathing.

Snow in my life nowadays

As Crouch & Desforges state” a sensual experience of the world is something which we cannot avoid and is part of our ongoing lives”.

In February 2017, I visited Alta with my work colleagues and I still remember how white everything was and how the air seemed so pure. From that moment on, the feeling of belonging in the white landscape of Alta grew bigger and bigger. Now, I can experience snow from October to May every year. Just walking on the snowy streets gives me an interior peace. I feel like home. And sometimes, it gives me a nostalgic feeling,  as my mind goes back to the moment my father shared his baked potatoes with me. Also, the sound of snow in the morning is music to my ears. I usually listen to music when I exit the house, but, not in winter. In winter, everything is quieter, and one can hear his own steps on the snow. It’s a magic moment which you don’t want to miss.

What others feel

I also wondered how others would perceive snow.  So, I went outside in the snow and just asked people. For example, Ida, a knitting shop assistant in Alta says she does not want snow on the streets. She would like to have it only on ski slopes, far away from her daily life. Rafael, a waiter from Brazil, associates snow with solitude, cold, darkness and depression. For Simone, a  tour guide from Italy, snow means light during the long dark polar nights. And for Thomas, a ski guide from Switzerland, snow is a tool to have fun. It is a moment when he can be in silence and cold far away from the town of Alta.


As one can observe, snow is felt differently by people from all over the world. It can bring back sweet memories from the past, it can provoke sadness or quite the opposite. In addition, the sound of footsteps on the snow can create music. And in the end, I  gladly chose to feel the magic of snow through all my senses for more than six months each year.

Experiencing snow from the perspective of someone from a tropical country

It was last year, 5th of October where I have experienced my first snow. Coming from a tropical country, where there is only sunshine and rain, I was eager to experience and touch it. When I have seen the snow falling from my window, I recall I was rushing outside the door to catch some snow which I only have seen on big screen, television and even included in the lyrics of a song. Seeing it in real and touching it felt magical. The snow was not a lot back then but to experience it first time made it really special. In the article by Crouch & Desforges (2003), the authors stated that it is a sensual experience (snow) of the world is something which we cannot avoid and is part of our ongoing lives, yet it is also something that is shaped by both the interrelationships of our everyday lives and the internal workings of a body that we own but do not wholly ‘control’.


JNA © 2018

On 7th of October, the snow was thick enough that we decided to go for a hike. Seeing the rocks, the ground, the falls freezing and the trees covered with snow was astounding, it felt like I was inside a snow globe. I tried to catch the snow and concentrate on looking how intricate the shape of snow is. In my mind, I was thinking, if only I had a magnifying glass or a tool that could magnify its delicate details, but it started to melt right away. So I just kept looking at it in amazement and continue to be astonished.


Continuing our hike, our footsteps were muffled by snow which produced a new sound that I was not used to hearing whenever we step on the ground with an abundant snow. While walking,

JNA ©2018

we found a thick layer of snow on a flat ground and together with friends, we made snow angels just to experience how it felt, like in the movies. Our ignorance created a feeling of bliss and giddiness. I remember the voices of our laughter and the coldness that we felt but still, we continued what we were doing just for the fun of it. We even tried eating snow just to know how it tasted and felt like. We have managed to use all our senses to experience snow.

Comparing the snow from the first time I have experienced it and the year after, I still get amazed by how it looked, sounded and felt but staying outside for a longer period felt like my hands and toes were freezing to the inside of my bones.

Reflecting on this, the duration of my entire stay in Alta, snow is a love and hate relationship depending on the circumstance. Although, I really enjoy the aesthetics in a snow covered place, wearing appropriate clothing for the weather is a bit tedious and the occasional slips and fall is inevitable which is a downside, but nevertheless makes me still enjoy snow.