Travel

Foliage Plus Snow Equals ‘Snowliage'-Here's Where to See It

Leaf peeping just got more hardcore.

Nick Fox / 500px/500Px Plus/Getty Images
Nick Fox / 500px/500Px Plus/Getty Images
Nick Fox / 500px/500Px Plus/Getty Images

“What is snowliage?” you ask with a giggle, because no one can say “snowliage” without cracking a smile.

Urban Dictionary defines snowliage as simply “snow falling on autumn foliage.” It happens when winter crashes fall’s party, long before it’s officially due to arrive on December 21. The term is used by weather experts, photographers, leaf peepers, and those lucky enough to live where this beautiful phenomenon takes place.

For such a simple concept, it’s hard to describe the glorious vision that occurs when a layer of stark white snow falls against vibrant colourful leaves. Thankfully, we have photos-and experts to tell us how and where to see snowliage IRL. Here’s everything to know about snowliage spotting, and tips to increase your odds of catching it in the wild.

Andrew Mayovskyy/Shutterstock
Andrew Mayovskyy/Shutterstock
Andrew Mayovskyy/Shutterstock

Why are we seeing more snowliage lately?

If you’ve never heard of snowliage before, you aren’t alone. Scott Highton, a professional photographer and founder of Virtual Yosemite, says he hadn’t seen or heard of the word until a few years ago. A quick search on the internet reveals that snowliage has only recently entered the public vocabulary. While there’s a chance that’s because, well, trends are trends, Highton thinks the uptick is partially due to global warming.

“[Climate change] is causing increasingly dramatic effects on weather. These changes have become more significant in just the last five years,” says Highton. “The results, particularly in regional weather, have made previously unusual combinations-such as those creating ‘snowliage’ conditions-more frequent.”The good news is that snowliage usually occurs at high altitude, according to Highton, where it’s normal for snowfall to take place a bit early in the season. Addison Green, a national meteorologist, adds: “The key to finding these potential snowy and colourful scenes is to be in higher elevations above sea level, where the colder air is likely to be more prevalent and snow comes down easier, versus rain or an icy mix.”

© Marco Bottigelli/Moment/Getty Images
© Marco Bottigelli/Moment/Getty Images
© Marco Bottigelli/Moment/Getty Images

Where are the best places to see snowliage?

You’re probably wondering: where the heck can I spot some of these autumnal flurries? Unfortunately, like any weather forecast, snowliage is almost impossible to predict until a few days before it’s about to happen.

Green says that in the US, chances of seeing snowliage are higher in northern New England, upstate New York, the upper portion of Michigan and Minnesota, western portions of Nebraska and The Dakotas, as well as Colorado up to Montana. Highton, who is based in the San Francisco Bay area, also notes that snowliage has happened in Northern California in recent years.

by Mark Spowart/Moment/Getty Images
by Mark Spowart/Moment/Getty Images
by Mark Spowart/Moment/Getty Images

Tips and tools for timing it right

To catch some snowliage IRL, keep an eye on fall foliage forecasts from sources like The Weather Channel and Accuweather, as well as the Average First Snowfall maps from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Fall Foliage Prediction Map could also help figure out when peak foliage is taking place, so you can look out for weather forecasts around those dates. Green suggests starting your snowliage research as early as the beginning of September.To up our chances, let’s look at where snowliage has often fallen (and been captured) across the country to figure out where you might want to plant yourself for the rest of autumn. By no means does this list cover all the places that experience snowliage-it can technically be anywhere!-but these are places where snowliage has been frequently reported and where experts recommend you’ll have a better shot.

“Be sure to bring your camera to capture the two seasons as they collide,” Neilson says. It’s too beautiful not to shoot (and post everywhere you possibly can).

Danita Delimont/Shutterstock
Danita Delimont/Shutterstock
Danita Delimont/Shutterstock

Yosemite National Park, California

For two years in a row, Yosemite National Park has experienced the whimsical, wonderful event that is snowliage. Highton first witnessed it here in November 2020, where he was able to capture the magnificence in a 360-degree VR panorama. “The snow beautifully highlights the textures of the granite peaks surrounding Yosemite Valley, while the afternoon sun illuminates the changing leaves on the trees,” Highton writes.

This past year, Yosemite had snowliage on its grounds around the third week in October, according to Highton, which lasted for a couple of days before melting away.

 Joe Raedle / Staff/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Joe Raedle / Staff/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Joe Raedle / Staff/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Green Mountains, Vermont

Over the past few years, there have been several instances of snowliage in the Green Mountains, which run through the center of Vermont. Many of the sightings have been tracked by social media posts and local news coverage, showcasing expansive views of foliage-meets-snow from the tops of Mount Mansfield and Killington Peak.

DenisTangneyJr/E+/Getty Images
DenisTangneyJr/E+/Getty Images
DenisTangneyJr/E+/Getty Images

White Mountains, New Hampshire

Kris Neilsen, Communications Manager of New Hampshire’s Division of Travel and Tourism Development, says that one of the most dramatic snowliage scenes can occur in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains, home to the highest mountain in the Northeast: Mount Washington (6,288 feet).

“When the mountain tops of the Presidential Range are covered in a blanket of fresh snow and all the autumn colours are still visible from the trees, it’s quite a majestic sight,” says Neilson. As a matter of fact, Mount Washington just had a snowliage happening this October. Seeing is believing!

Dene' Miles/Shutterstock
Dene’ Miles/Shutterstock
Dene’ Miles/Shutterstock

Adirondacks Mountains, New York

Green, who has reported on the weather in upstate New York, says the western portions of the Adirondacks Mountains is one of the best places to see snowliage in the region. (Here’s a photo from this past year to prove it.) To make a stay out of it, Green suggests visiting the towns of Watertown and Old Forge, both near the Adirondacks.

SNEHIT PHOTO/Shutterstock
SNEHIT PHOTO/Shutterstock
SNEHIT PHOTO/Shutterstock

Rocky Mountains, Colorado

The Rocky Mountains, the largest mountain system in North America, is another spot Green recommends for snowliage seekers to get their fix. The Rockies can easily be seen in several Colorado towns like Meeker, Craig, and Walton.

 Don Smith/Photodisc/Getty Images
Don Smith/Photodisc/Getty Images
Don Smith/Photodisc/Getty Images

Eastern Sierra, California

Another part of Northern California that has seen a decent amount of snowliage activity in recent years is the eastern Sierra, part of the Sierra Nevada and not too far from Yosemite. Highton says that the Eastern Sierra is well-known for its fall colours that tend to be “more intense” then the other parts of Sierra Nevada, which makes it the perfect spot for when the snow falls.

Mono County is one area where snowliage has been spotted this year, especially in Mammoth. Highton suggests checking out June Lake and Mono Lake for spectacular displays, if and when the snow makes an appearance in the fall.

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Nicoletta Richardson is a contributor for Thrillist.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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