Don’t let that snow get away! Preserving snow crystals is easy (or so I was told).


Snowflake photo

Snowflake photo by Julie Clark

I live for snow. I am not a skier, I just love walking in the stuff, sitting outside with a book and tea in the white, and taking far too many photos of things poking up through the snow, draped in snow, casting shadows on the snow… (Oh, if you are here just for the snow-preserving instructions, scoot right down to the bottom.)

How do others feel about this wonderful stuff I have been known to travels hours for a fix of? I ask the woman ringing up my groceries, Sheila, if she likes snow.  “I do. I don’t ski, but I snowshoe,” she replies. “And I love the quiet after a big storm, all sounds seem muffled.” She is right, there is a sense of silence when the ground is covered in a thick snow blanket.

A Facebook friend was waiting, like many of us, for a loudly heralded storm of the century.  About three hours after it was due when we had a few random flakes, she posted; ”#Worstwinterever, they promised snow.” Luckily for her, the storm was just a bit late. It came, all 18” of it, enough to delight any snow lover.

Jill, in my office, says this about snow, “I am like a dog, I just love it.” She adds, “When I wake in the middle of the night and hear the snowplow scraping by it feels so comforting.”

A few other people I asked made scrunchy faces and leaned away from me as if my love of snow might be contagious.

What I did notice was how many people, like myself, preface their love of snow with, “I don’t ski, but…” It is fabulous that skiing helps makes winter appealing for many, but I wonder how it has become so associated with snow that we feel we have to apologize if we like it for any other reason. I am not curious enough to find out, though, I’d rather go play in the white fluff.

Snowflake photo by Julie Clark

Snowflake photo by Julie Clark

Snow is here such a short time. Too short for me, and so the idea of a little flake to peek at in August has appeal. I have wanted to try preserving snowflakes since I first learned about it. There is a storm on the way, so it is time to give it a shot. My professed goal is to have a delicate memory of my favorite season, but really it is just another thing to do outside.

There are several ways to preserve snowflakes. Some use super glue, others spray fixative, I am going to use cheap hairspray, the kind I would never spray on my hair.

I headed to the drugstore, as I have glass, and metal pokey things for moving my snow crystals, but not the requisite hair spray. The sales person asked why I specifically wanted the cheapest possible spray. I explained my project and found another snow lover.Julie who works at West End Drug in Bar Harbor pulled out her phone and showed me some macro shots of snowflakes. Who knew there was a snow photographer right around the corner. She is the one who took these amazing photos of crystals.

Which of course brings up photography. It takes some fairly fancy equipment to take all the images in Ken Libbrecht’s various snow books. (These are a good place to go it you want to learn about snow). You can get out there without a major investment, though. As Julie’s photos show, a good eye and a steady hand can produce beautiful results. She uses her camera, but if you have a smartphone you can get a simple macro lens to snap over your camera. The EZ Macro website shows some more fabulous snowflakes.

It is now 12 degrees out, no wind, and snowing. What on earth am I doing inside?

Simple equipment for photographing snowflakes

Simple equipment for photographing snowflakes

Preserve your own snowflake
You will need:

1.  A piece of glass.

You can buy microscope slides quite inexpensively online, I use old window panes because I have a stack of them.

2. Hairspray

3. A toothpick or thin metal probe. I use the sharp probe from my dissecting kit. OR when I couldn’t find it, my X-acto knife.

4. Black velvet or similar dark surface for catching and choosing the perfect snowflake for your collection. The sleeve of my black turtleneck works great.

5. Snow

Put probe and glass in the freezer, hairspray in the fridge.

How to:
When it snows and is below freezing out, and not terribly windy, take the glass, spray, probe and velvet outside. Lightly, evenly, spray the glass with hairspray. Let it set a few minutes.

Catch crystals on the velvet.

When you find one you like, use the cold probe to transfer it to the sprayed glass. You can place as many as you wish on the glass, and move them around to create a pleasing pattern. When you are satisfied, put the glass back in the freezer and protect it from being rubbed on the surface. Putting it in a box is not a bad idea if you have room in your freezer.

Give it time. The water will evaporate (sublimate), the hairspray will dry, and you will have a perfect memory of winter to last all year long. Or, if yours turns out like mine, it may not be so perfect. I have a few dendrite branches poking out of a clump. The challenge is on. I now have a stack of glass in the freezer, and am going to try hairspray method again, as well as superglue.

If you want to try other methods, here are some easy to follow instructions

If you want to contact Julie about her snowflakes photography, you can email her here:


Water drops collect and freeze on falling snowflakes, forming pellets, graupel.

Water drops collect and freeze on falling snowflakes, forming pellets, graupel.

Karen O. Zimmermann

About Karen O. Zimmermann

Karen O. Zimmermann savors chance encounters with people throughout the state of Maine, and is endlessly delighted with the tales they have to share.