Snow. White cold stuff, right? In French, it’s neige. Snowflakes are called flocons de neige (or just flocons). In the past week, I’ve seen snowflakes, rain and bright sunshine. The rain down lower was heavy, and the French saying for heavy rain is “Il pleut comme vache qui pisse” (It rains like a cow that pees).
The pistes have turned from poudre or peuf (powder) to soupe (erm, soup). There are also icy patches underneath like a patinoire (ice rink). Conditions have gone from hard-packed to soft and mushy, to avalanche-prone, then powdery, and now back to soggy snow, all in less than a week. And if you want to have a chat with any French person about the conditions, you really do have to know more than the word for snow. Otherwise it’s plain confusing: “What’s that? You were stuck in soup? You hit the ice rink? Then a cow peed?” These are just a few examples of snow-related talk that you probably need to know.
This photo of an avalanche (you can figure out its size by looking at the big pine trees) shows how a thin the layer of snow can transform quickly from a patinoire to soup, and then collapse under its own weight. Apart from the obvious faux-pas moment of misunderstanding someone who mentions getting stuck in soup, it’s pretty handy to know from a safety point of view, especially at this time of year. If someone is talking about a fondue, chances are they’re talking about melted snow and not cheese. Snow fondue is by far the less attractive type.