Building Your Word Power: Sastruga

Over the years, I’ve posted photos of one of my favorite winter phenomena and a couple of years ago, blogger Sandra, from A Corner of Cornwall, told me there was a fancy name for it!

Sastruga (pl. sastrugi) It means: “ridges of snow formed on a snowfield by the action of the wind.”

When the wind screams off the lake, it sculpts the snow into constantly changing shapes . . . sastrugi.

Some are subtle.


Some are gorgeous, sinuous, and flashy.IMG_3303

It may look like striations in rock


Or waves of water, breaking



Or just plain peculiar . . .


This was from earlier this week. Those “duck bills” have an overhang of at least a foot!

Sastruga–A new word for you–you’ll need to use it three times, in a sentence, to make it your own . . .

Would you ever have a need for such a word, in your neck of the woods?


83 thoughts on “Building Your Word Power: Sastruga

  1. Definitely not, in my neck of the woods. In this climate, the only time water forms ice is when you put it in the freezer… But your sastrugi are epic, they remind me of wind-sculpted desert rock, but in the most blinding pristine white.

  2. I had no clue that there was a word for wind-sculpted drifts. These beautiful photos remind me of how, when I was a child, on the day following a major snow storm, I liked to go out and play in the sastruga. (Whew, I’ve used the word “sastruga” once, now I only need to use it two more times and I’ll own it.)

  3. I could say that word 3 times but……well……my memory would not hang on to it much after that! LOL! Now that we head to Texas for the winters, I can safely say that my need for such a word has vanished. BUT…..I definitely do remember seeing these fab designs in past winters. Never knew there was a specific word for the phenomenon. Great post!!!!

  4. Oh yes! I think we must have had the same storm that hit you earlier this week. Plenty of sastrugi in view out my kitchen window, on rooftops, in the field, in my backyard. Your photos are extraordinary. On first glance I thought you were making an all white, very modern quilt!

  5. Sounds like a type of hot creamy noodle dish we should make as comfort food for when just such weather is upon us! Photos are amazing, and I know you froze your — off taking them! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Not at all. But I wish I’d known this word when we lived in France, as I could definitely have used it to fine affect when walking in the Pyrenees. What wonderful photos. No wonder you don’t hang your washing out 😉

  7. Great post and the reply’s wonderful ~ (read them all) Never knew the word but glad to learn it since I am sure I will get to use it before this winter is over! There’s always something magical about snow as is with this word!

  8. What sensational sastruga specimens you have! Love those duck bills! I’ve had similar strange formations on ice in a birdbath. I wonder if they would qualify as sastruga? I will use this word today at my son-in-law’s birthday luncheon. They’ll have no clue… Thank you Kerry!

    • The duck bills fascinated me–I should’ve taken a series of photos, as they developed. I kept waiting for the weight of the snow to break the beaks off but it took rain, the next day, to ruin the look. I hope you got a chance to slip the word into casual conversation!

  9. A terrific post — inspirational (such extraordinary beauty!) and educational (new word: sastruga/sastrugi). We haven’t had much snow yet — but there are many weeks of winter still to come… Thank you for sharing this with all of us!

  10. Well… at 60* it’s a little hard to find beautiful Sastruga here,or any of that white stuff. I love your photos though, the formations are so unique. Is that what you call limited edition?😁

    • Oh, sure, rub it in that you are warm there and we . . . aren’t! The sastrugi are limited edition and early expiration–it warmed up a little and now they’re just lumps of snow!

  11. Gorgeous photos! I especially love the duck bills. I will definitely have opportunities to stump my husband with that new word — in winter and maybe when wind ruffles beach sand.

  12. I did not know this word, and will treasure it to use whenever I’m where snow drifts–which will be less frequently than you! some of those photos are really beautiful, but I bet it’s also really cold there!!!

  13. What wonderful examples of a new and beautiful word Kerry. Sometimes in wild storms here the sand on the beaches will be left lying in striations and sculpted piles just like the less showy of your snowy pics. (Never seen examples like your #2 or duck bills) Continued movement will flatten out all but the deepest striations however. I Googled, and it is prosaically called ‘fore-dune’ as agin the ‘dune’ of wind and tide swept piles of sand at the back of a beach. You northerners get all the best words! 😀

    • Sastruga is definitely a a more interesting word than fore-dune! I guess the snow is so light that the wind can really shape it more quickly and easily than it can sand. And we had very high winds . . .

  14. Lovely “sastrugi”! Yes, that is a new word for me. There usually isn’t enough snow and wind in my neck of the woods to make these lovely sculptures. The weather people would get quite excited about getting enough snow with wind to make them.

  15. There is no use for such a beautiful word in my neck of the woods, either. Such a shame, although I have no idea how I would cope with the cold that brings on such amazing formations. Stay warm!

    • It really has been cold–the wind is the killer. But, in reality, we mostly run from the house to the car and aren’t outside all that long, except, of course, when we have to go out and clear the driveway. Brrrrr . . . .

  16. J > The photo after ‘It may look like striations in rock’ shows a surface where the fine ‘layers’ of snow have been partly eroded, and the process is exactly the same (though quicker) as occurs in rocks with layers, such as slate, when exposed to the elements.

  17. I’ll have to drive up to the ski station (only half an hour away) and have a look for some sastrugi which, as somebody else has said, sounds like a pasta dish.
    Beautiful photos – thank you for those.

  18. Wow, these are amazing! We never get enough snow to form these types of shapes – I did wonder if it could apply to sand but it appears sand only gets ‘sand ripples’, but still if I ever get the chance to use sastruga I will!

  19. We have lots of sastrugi here, but not as elaborately sculpted as your off-the-water beauties. I am not such a fan of the word, though. It does sound like a heavy, calorie-laden noodle dish. I’ll stick with snow dunes!

  20. What a great word! Western SD doesn’t get many of those, usually, I think because we are so dry, our snow is drier. A few wavy lines is mostly what I’ve seen. These are quite majestic sculptures!

  21. I love learning new words and new things. Great photos of different examples of things. No, We haven’t had any snow at all this winter. Snow is rare where I live which suits me just fine. But it is magical to observe. Thanks for sharing this.

    • The variety of shapes we get in the snow always amazes me. It only really happens with the combination of lots of light-weight snow and big winds, which can be pretty unappealing, except for the sastrugi!

      • No problem. Yes, the sand shapes like this by the wind would be small, but I was thinking of the sand shaped by the water – possibly the water and the wind. After all, both liquids and gases are fluids. Hmmmm ….

  22. oh how I love interesting weather, in the winter particularly. These photos are epic, Kerry! We have so far had only a light dusting of snow. I would love it if we got the kind of drifts you have (but only on days when I don’t need to go out please universe!).

  23. We definitely get them here, all winter! Lots of wind coming off the mountains here and the snow is constantly shaped by it. I photographed a striking example a few days ago and had no idea it had a special name…. 🙂

  24. Pingback: It’s Snow Big Deal | Love Those "Hands at Home"

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