The Scent of Snow

Snow doesn’t have a smell, exactly, being made of water—but the combination of cold and humidity is its own experience for our nose. While humidity helps our noses smell, in cold temperatures odor molecules don’t travel far, and fewer of them make their way into our cold-numbed noses. We register the coldness of the air with our trigeminal nerve, which is not the same as olfaction, but we process the experience similarly. The effect as we breathe in through our noses is cooling and refreshing.

The smell of snow, in some ways, is made up of the smell of our snowy environment: pine and fir trees; the environmental smells captured by the relative warmth of the pavement on a cold day; if we’re lucky, the smells of the winter cabin from which we watch the snow fall. The smells of snow may be ones of imaginative association: peppermint, white chocolate, cedarwood, frankincense.

All of this I had the occasion to ponder as I enjoyed @scentsofplates’s “50 Words for Snow” kit, with an herbal tea, chocolate “snow bark,” frankincense aroma candies, fizzy scented bath tablets, and an atmospheric playlist to listen to. The multi-sensory imaginative experience felt like a “snow day” unto itself.

What smells do you associate with snow?

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