15 Incredibly Cool Facts About Snow

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istock

Love it (like when you’re curled up by the fire) or hate it (when you’re on the road), snow is a major part of winter for many people. Get to know the flurries and flakes on a deeper level with these 15 interesting facts.

1. SNOWFLAKES AREN'T THE ONLY FORM OF SNOW.

Snow can also precipitate as graupel or sleet. Not to be confused with hail, graupel (or snow pellets) are opaque ice particles that form in the atmosphere as ice crystals fall through freezing cloud droplets—meaning cloud particles that are colder than the freezing point of water but remain liquid. The cloud droplets group together to form a soft, lumpy mass. Sleet, on the other hand, consists of drops of rain that freeze into small, translucent balls of ice as they fall from the sky.

2. SYRACUSE, NEW YORK TRIED TO MAKE SNOW ILLEGAL.

America’s snowiest major city has an impressive arsenal of plows, but in 1992 it tried a new trick to control white stuff. The city’s Common Council passed a decree that any more snow before Christmas Eve was illegal. As it turns out, Mother Nature is a scofflaw—it snowed just two days later.

3. IT'S A MYTH THAT NO TWO SNOWFLAKES ARE EXACTLY THE SAME.

In 1988, a scientist found two identical snow crystals. They came from a storm in Wisconsin.

4. THE LARGEST SNOWFLAKE MIGHT HAVE BEEN 15 INCHES WIDE.

According to some sources, the largest snowflakes ever observed fell during a snowstorm in January 1887 at Montana’s Fort Keogh. While witnesses said the flakes were “larger than milk pans,” these claims have not been substantiated.

5. SNOW IS TRANSLUCENT, NOT WHITE.

Snow, like the ice particles it’s made up of, is actually colorless. It’s translucent, which means that light does not pass through it easily (like it would transparent glass), but is rather reflected. It’s the light reflected off a snowflake’s faceted surface that creates its white appearance.

But why white? The reason we see objects as colors is because some wavelengths of light are absorbed while others are reflected (remember, light is a spectrum of colors). The object takes on whatever color light is reflected. For example, the sky is blue because the blue wavelengths are reflected while the other colors are absorbed. Since snow is made up of so many tiny surfaces, the light that hits it is scattered in many directions and will actually bounce around from one surface to the next as it’s reflected. This means no wavelength is absorbed or reflected with any consistency, so the white light bounces back as the color white.

6. AND, IN FACT, IT DOESN'T ALWAYS APPEAR WHITE.

Deep snow can often appear blue. This is because layers of snow can create a filter for the light, causing more red light to be absorbed than blue light. The result is that deeper snow appears blue—think about how your snowy footprints compare to the surrounding landscape.

Snow can also sometimes appear pink. Snow in high alpine areas and the coastal polar regions contains cryophilic fresh-water algae that have a red pigment that tints the surrounding snow.

7. EACH WINTER IN THE U.S., AT LEAST 1 SEPTILLION ICE CRYSTALS FALL FROM THE SKY.

That’s 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000—24 zeros!

8. THE MOST SNOW TO FALL IN A 24-HOUR PERIOD IN THE UNITED STATES IS 75.8 INCHES.

In 1921, over six feet of snow fell between April 14 at 2:30 p.m. and April 15 at 2:30 p.m. in Silver Lake, Colorado.

9. COLORADO ALSO HOLDS THE RECORD FOR THE MOST SNOW TO FALL IN A SINGLE CALENDAR DAY.

On December 4, 1913, 63 inches of snow fell on Georgetown, Colorado.

10. SNOW HAS NEVER BEEN REPORTED IN KEY WEST.

The coldest temperature on record for the Florida city (reached on January 13, 1981, and January 12, 1886) is 41 degrees Fahrenheit.

11. NOT EVERY BIG SNOWSTORM IS A BLIZZARD.

In order to be classified as a blizzard, a snowstorm must meet a very specific set of qualifications. Winds must blow at least 35 miles per hour and the snowfall must reduce visibility to less than 0.25 miles for a period of at least three hours.

Other common types of snowstorms include a snow squall (an intense snowfall accompanied by strong winds that only lasts a short time) and a snowburst (a brief, intense snowfall that results in rapid accumulation of snow).

12. IGLOOS CAN BE MORE THAN 100 DEGREES WARMER INSIDE THAN OUTSIDE.

And they’re warmed entirely by body heat. Since fresh, compacted snow is approximately 90 to 95 percent trapped air (meaning it can’t move and transfer heat) it’s a great insulator. Many animals, such as bears, dig deep holes in the snow to hibernate through the winter.

13. NOVA SCOTIA HOLDS THE RECORD FOR THE MOST SNOW ANGELS EVER MADE SIMULTANEOUSLY IN MULTIPLE LOCATIONS. 

In 2011, 22,022 Nova Scotia residents in 130 separate locations all plopped down in the snow to make snow angels.

14. NORTH DAKOTA HOLDS THE RECORD FOR MOST SNOW ANGELS MADE SIMULTANEOUSLY IN ONE PLACE.

Back in 2007 it was 8962 people in North Dakota who plopped down in the snow to waggle their arms and legs to make snow angels.

15. FEELING MORE DEVILISH? THE LARGEST SNOWBALL FIGHT ON RECORD TOOK PLACE IN SEATTLE.

Exactly 5834 snow fighters came together to exchange frozen barrages to create the largest snowball fight in the world on January 12, 2013.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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22 Creepy Cryptids From Around the World

Belgian painter Pieter Dirkx's interpretation of the Mongolian death worm.
Belgian painter Pieter Dirkx's interpretation of the Mongolian death worm.

According to Merriam-Webster, a cryptid is an animal "that has been claimed to exist but never proven to exist." But as Bigfoot believers and Loch Ness Monster enthusiasts are often quick to point out, it’s pretty difficult to prove that something doesn’t exist. Plus, it’s much more fun to indulge in the idea that giant sea monsters and hairy humanoids are roaming the uncharted corners of the planet.

On this episode of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy is taking viewers across time and space to unearth legends about lesser-known monsters that, again, haven’t been proven to not exist. Take the Mongolian death worm, a lamprey-like nightmare that supposedly lives in the Gobi Desert and radiates a poison so strong that you could die just by standing near it. If you’re an ill-behaved child or a Catholic who scarfs down steak every Friday during Lent, watch out for the Rougarou, a Louisiana-based werewolf that sniffs out those two demographics.

Learn about more fearsome, fascinating cryptids of all kinds in the video below, and subscribe to the Mental Floss YouTube channel for future episodes of The List Show.