Snow in Science, Culture, and Climate

Snow beaters

The term “snow beater” refers to a tool that was used to brush or tap snow off of clothing before going indoors. In addition to preventing a mess, removing snow from clothing can keep a person dry. The snow of interior and northern Alaska is generally dry, but under windy conditions or when outside for a long period of time, a person’s clothing can become caked with snow. Once inside a warm building, the snow can melt and soak into clothing, re-freezing again upon going outside.

Snow beaters were most commonly made and used by peoples of northwest Alaska. The examples below are of Siberian Yup’ik origin. Siberian Yup’ik refers to a distinct language and culture group encompassing eastern Siberia and St. Lawrence Island in Alaska.

Select the photos below to view larger images (where available), and select the credit line to link to a detailed museum record for each item.

This reindeer antler snow beater is from eastern Siberia and features a carved handle to help the user grip it.

A straight, narrow piece of wood (or bone?) used to remove snow from clothing etc. in the Arctic
Photo courtesy of the University of Alaska Museum of the North UAM:EH:UA66-016-0006
Dark brown, carved from one piece of wood, with handle, long narrow shape
Photo courtesy of the University of Alaska Museum of the North UAM.EH.UA66-016-0006

These two wooden snow beaters are from the St. Lawrence Island communities of Savoonga and Gambell, respectively. St. Lawrence Island is treeless tundra, so they snow beater was likely made from driftwood.