Snow Serenade

A classic ode to winter from the pages of Arizona Highways. | By Raymond Carlson, Editor (1938-1971) | Photograph by Randy Prentice

Snow Serenade

In a land where there is so little snow, snow in Arizona is a thing of beauty, that shining white curtain of cleanliness with which Winter creates a wonderland. In the mountain regions of our state, snow comes early and lies deep to feed mountain streams in the spring, which in turn bring the moisture to the great reservoirs. Farmers who may never see snow owe their crops to it. 

Only rarely, very rarely does snow come to the desert. An inch or two will fall some stormy night, and the next morning the desert will blink with the new day on whiteness all around. A saguaro will look the world over, startled by the unexpected and will wear a “See, what a bright fellow I am!” expression. No, the snow is not for the desert. An hour or two after the storm comes in the night, the snow will begin to fade, apologetic for the intrusion. And in the sunlight the next noon all the snow will be gone from the desert, and dampness and freshness will remain. On the hills and mountains surrounding the desert, the snow will last sometimes for weeks adding to the artistic appeal of an always artistic region. 

The business of winter sets in early in the northern part of this land, and with winter comes the snow, hard and bright and clean. Way up in the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff you might find snow any time after November first, and sometimes it lies on the rocky slopes of the mountain until July. But this is just a little bit of the Arctic in a land where summer and spring are mostly in season. In these mountains and in the higher elevations where snow comes early and is piled deep, people with skis seek the snow and plunge down mountainsides on the wings of Winter. And to these people snow is sport. 

Snow is many things to many people in this land, where to very, very few snow is a hardship. Snow is a fearful thing to many people in colder climes, with its attendant evil companions cold and sleet and freezing weather. But here Winter’s white garment loses its terror. It becomes something different for nearly every person who lives in or near it. 

Snow enhances the beauty of many of our scenic shrines. The Grand Canyon becomes a truly enchanted place wearing a jacket of snow. And the whiteness on the rim merely accents the sonorous colors rolling out below it. 

Snow is a constant challenge to the photographer. In a land definitely photogenic, snow adds a zest and sparkle to the exciting subject. The true camera-artist will strive to catch the patterns of the snow. 

There is the powdery snow, fine as flour, rippled by the wind. There is the coarser snow, with big crystals glistening in the sun. And then there is the delicate study in black and white, the creation of snow and shadow, portrayals in Winter’s most delightful loveliness. 

An old juniper, heavy with snow, is transformed from a living thing of ordinary beauty to a shining thing of newness and light. A mountain road becomes a snow path through an aisle of trees, and footsteps in the snow, as evanescent as a second, surely must last forever. 

There is, too, the picture of the snow melting at the edges of a bank and running out in little rivulets to be carried away by the streams. And there is always the haunting beauty of a waning day in Winter, with shadows and darkness slipping in over the snow, pulling the blankets of night on the world for rest and peace.