Calvin and Hobbes comic strip creator Bill Watterson sarcastically noted, “Getting an inch of snow is like winning 10 cents in the lottery.”

He must have been a fellow snow lover. While we may not have won the big snowfall jackpot that smothered other areas of the country, last weekend’s storm definitely didn’t shortchange us.

More than 15 inches fell at my home in West Tisbury — a respectable “windfall” — and with snow sliding off of our metal roof, the piles of white stuff on the deck was epic, easily up to my waist. 

What was most interesting about this storm was the formation of snow rollers or blizzard balls. Many of the Island’s fields were covered with many seemingly isolated snowballs. These snow rollers are unusual, caused when chunks of snow (often with a hollow interior) are rolled or blown along the ground, picking up snow along the way. They can be as small as a tennis ball or as large as a car. Specific conditions are needed to achieve this phenomenon and all of them were in play during the blizzard.

Crazy that snow is so simple, yet so complicated. Since grade school we have all known it is just frozen water, precipitation of hexagonal ice crystals that come down from the atmosphere. However, describing it can get much more detailed.

Snowfall is the amount of snow that has fallen over a set amount of time or during a single storm. Once it is on the ground, it becomes snowpack, which is the combination of the new and existing snow on the surface. 

And how it comes down also has many categories. Last week’s storm was considered a blizzard. Blizzards are violent winter storms that last at least three hours, have subfreezing temperatures, strong winds and low visibilities. Contrast that to a snowstorm, which has large amounts of snowfall, but may lack the high winds and low visibilities. Take away duration, make it brief and intense, with strong wind and limited visibility and you have a squall.

Flurries are fleeting and occur when the snow appears for only short duration with little accumulation. If the snowfall is brief, but intense and accumulates, call it a snowburst.

There is a whole lexicon that has developed to describe snow as it ages. Atop mountains, snowpack can become what is called névé. Névé melts and refreezes, on its way to becoming part of a glacier. As it ages (over a year) and is compacted, névé develops into firn, a denser type of snowpack that has completed at least one summer season. Then it becomes part of a glacier. Other categories described by the National Snow and Ice Data Center include old snow, seasonal snow, and perennial snow, all with their own qualities and meanings.

And it isn’t only “white” stuff. Snow can have (or appear to have) color. Snow usually looks white because visible light is white and there isn’t much absorbed or reflected. However, sometimes snow appears blue when the ice crystals act as little prisms. They can scatter blue light over a distance while redirecting or even absorbing the red wavelengths.

Particles of sand, dust or other natural materials can also cause color. In Alpine areas, “watermelon snow” is possible. This red or pink snow occurs due to a freshwater alga that has red pigments. Another source of red snow is the Blood Falls in Antarctica. In this case, the red color results from the flow of iron-rich fresh water beneath the snow that oxidizes when it comes out and reacts with the open air.

NASA’s scientists are familiar with this effect, even on other planets. Changes in the coloration and brightness of Mars’s north polar cap, for example, lead them to hypothesize that dust is the culprit.

If your eyes aren’t deceiving you, you must be all ears. Your sense of sound can be affected by snow, which can dampen or enhance what you hear. Thick, fresh, powdery snow absorbs sound at its surface and reduces sounds, while hard, frozen-surfaced snow will reflect sound, so the sound will both seem clearer and travel farther.

And those creaking and crunching sounds are also easily explained. The friction and resistance of the snow grains cause these as they rub against each other. Colder temperature cause louder crunches, while higher temperatures reduce friction, making less noise.

Of course, all fascination with snow isn’t merely scientific. To celebrate the first blizzard of this (literally) multifaceted substance, it’s appropriate to close with some more poetic words of appreciation from English writer J.B. Priestley: “The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this in not enchantment then where is it to be found?”

Suzan Bellincampi is director of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown, and author of Martha’s Vineyard: A Field Guide to Island Nature.