As I type these words just before 5 pm on Tuesday night, I can hear the sound of sleet on window panes. It started snowing yesterday afternoon while I was at the laundromat, and some sort of semi-frozen precipitation fell throughout the night. When I awoke this morning, there was about an inch of snow on the ground, the kind of minimal accumulation that is easier to sweep away than to shovel. Today as I taught classes and held office hours, what looked like snow continued to fall without noticeable accumulation; when I walked home from school just after 2 pm, the “snow” had changed to rain, or sleet, or precipitate slush…

The official meterorological term the local weather forecasters use to describe this sort of phenomenon–a storm in which something continues to fall from the sky for hours if not days on end without much in the way of noticeable accumulation–is “wintry mix.” The bits that are falling aren’t exactly snowflakes: they fall too quickly, and you can hear them pelting the windows. But they aren’t exactly raindrops, either: they’re too cold, they make an entirely un-rainfall-like sizzling sound when they hit glass, and they stick to your umbrella. If you don’t know whether to call it snow, rain, sleet, or freezing rain, you call it a combination of all of them: wintry mix.

Wintry mix is one of those phenomena, like frost heaves, that I don’t remember encountering when I was a child in Ohio. In Ohio, it either rains or it snows. Occasionally, a storm might feature sleet, and even more rarely, a storm might pelt the earth with hail. But never do I remember listening as a child to semi-frozen droplets sizzling on windowpanes. If we ever did experience a hybrid cross between snow, rain, and sleet, you can certainly bet that schools shut down and life stood still for the duration. Although central Ohio gets her fair share of wintry weather, Ohio drivers aren’t exactly accustomed to precipation that comes down as liquid and then freezes upon contact, Old Man Winter’s favorite flavor of Slurpee.

Here in New Hampshire, though, wintry mix is a fairly common occurrence. Although some local school districts cancelled classes today, later in the season after drivers have re-accustomed themselves to winter driving, life will go on as scheduled. Keene State didn’t cancel classes although about a dozen individual professors did; for the most part, navigating through wintry mix is simply a part of the New Hampshire experience.

In my mind, wintry mix represents the in-between spell the Granite State experiences now that autumn is definitely over and winter hasn’t yet officially arrived. Although we’ve already had a dusting of snow, we haven’t yet had anything that required a shovel or that remained on the ground for more than a day: even tonight’s wintry mix is forecast to disappear by tomorrow, with predicted highs in the 40s. Similar to party mix, wintry mix is an appetizing snack, a taste of the meteorological feast to come. Soon enough, we’ll experience our first real snowstorm: something that will dump about 6 inches that will remain, destined to be layered with more and more inches, until spring. In the meantime, we’ll get our fill on wintry mix: the forecast says we’ll have another spate on Friday, just in time for the weekend. Will someone pass the chips & dip? Looks like this party’s just begun.