Winter wonderland

By: Stef Foster, Columnist

My semester-and-a-bit on exchange here at Towson has provided many unfamiliar and exciting experiences. A highlight for me has been living with snow and ice for the first time. As a rule, it does not snow in Australia. There are exceptions – the Snowy Mountains, and alpine areas in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania do receive winter snow falls. With the help of an extensive system of snowmaking machines, there are a handful of ski resorts that operate during the snow season, providing winter fun for thousands of tourists each year. However, across the rest of the continent, snow is virtually unheard of.

I have also noticed there are many different kinds of snow. A couple of weekends ago we had beautiful, powdery, Christmas card-style fluff with snowflakes that stayed on my nose and eyelashes. I even popped my sledding cherry with the help of an oversized plastic storage tub lid on the freshly created toboggan slope out the back of the union building which was so fun. Although the mild case of frostbite my fingers endured the next couple of hours was less exciting.

Later on in the week, the powdery snow had hardened and I enjoyed hysterical giggles with friends as we tried to pick up the largest clump of snow-ice we possibly could. A particularly round snow-ice lump made a great soccer ball, although led to some confusion and dispute when our ball split into two. Which one was the actual ball? Did that kick count as a goal or not? Can one ball be used as a decoy while the other is surreptitiously dribbled in for a goal?

Thanks to the icy rain over the weekend, the surface of the snow has been coated with a thick, crispy shell like the crust on fried chicken. It makes the most satisfying noise when you stomp through it. The big crunch is followed by a delightful, glassy tinkling like thousands of chandelier crystals shimmering and shattering to the ground, such aural pleasures.

Upon expressing my joy at all things snow and ice, my roommate asked curiously, “What is winter like in Australia?” I pondered a little and replied with “cold, wet and miserable.” At least that’s my experience in the southern-most parts of the continent. While we don’t get snow, we get lots of rain, grey skies, wind and general unpleasantness. Of course, cold for us means only five to ten degrees Celsius or 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now that the snow and ice is turning to slush and puddles, weeks worth of shovelled snow is stacked up in ugly, disfigured mounds on corners next to footpaths. Brown stains and hundreds of footprints besmirch the once pristine fields of white. It will be sad to see the snow go but I do look forward to spring and warmer weather. A real soccer ball will present it’s own share of arguments and accusations of cheating, I’m sure, but at least we can be fairly certain it won’t split in two!

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