The Dance, The Myth and The Snow

Nov 29, 2017

If you’ve ever lived in a place where it is expected for snow to lay its sparkling blanket of white powder every winter, the myth of the snow dance is a tradition well known and practiced by many. Here in the mountains it’s not uncommon to spot someone doing a jig in an attempt to coerce a big snowstorm to come their way. For these faithful souls, snow means fun.

Fact or Fiction?

indian-snow-dance.jpegThe practice of singing and dancing for favorable weather outcomes has occurred throughout history. Over time, many Native American tribes have performed spiritual rituals as a form of prayer to Mother Nature. These rituals are unique to experience as they also capture the wonder of traditions being passed down through generations. One of the more interesting aspects of these dances is the mythologies fueling them. Heikki Lunta is the embodiment of the Finnish snow god. Heikki Lunta, translated in English as Hank Snow, was popularized by local musician David Riutta’s “Heikki Lunta Snow dance Song”:

“Now I’ll sing my song
To make the snow come down
And I’ll do my snow dance
Whoops! Almost lost my pants
I’ll holler and yell,
And really give it
It’s Heikki’s snow dance song!”

The Snow Dance in Popular Culture

Beyond its cultural history, the snow dance has lived on in popular culture, as snow lovers perform goofy rituals like flushing ice cubes down the toilet, sleeping with a spoon under a pillow, placing a white crayon in the freezer, wearing pajamas inside out and walking backwards to bed the night before a snow storm.

frozen_elsa.jpgThe ability to influence winter weather is a trait of many characters in literature and film. Jack Frost the Snowman and Walt Disney’s Queen Elsa from Frozen are just a couple of examples of popular characters bringing life to winter. These characters have a special connection to the winter elements, giving them the power to influence the frost, ice, snow, sleet and knee shaking temperatures. Is it possible that we also have the power to influence snowy weather?

Snow Dance Success in VAIL

Southern-Utes-Snow-Dance.jpgFor skiers and riders, these snow dance rituals are not to be taken lightly. When Vail Mountain first opened in 1962, members of the Southern Ute Indian tribe, native to the Rocky Mountains, came to the village and performed a traditional dance as a prayer for snow. The dance was a great success, evident by the mounds of powder that soon accumulated. Eddie Box Jr. took part in that ceremony in the early Sixties as a child, when his father led the dance. Later a tribe elder himself, Eddie Box Jr. and the Southern Utes returned to Vail in 2012 in hopes of recreating the successful snow ceremony from decades ago. Once again, the snow gods were on their side. Some who witnessed it claimed the more the Ute’s sang and danced, the more the snow fall increased.

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