MISSOULA -- Frosting isn't just for cake anymore.
For Kia Liszak and her son, Silas, "frosting" meant spreading out a beach towel in their yard on Friday morning, donning swimsuits and building "sandcastles" out of snow.
For Ryan Maynes, it meant playing ping-pong on the back porch in his underwear.
For Josh Eamon, it meant going for a swim in the "pond" of snow in his backyard.
And for fans of the newly minted "Frosters Anonymous" group on Facebook, it meant plenty of laughs on a day when too many of us were stuck inside staring at computers.
What began Thursday as a snow-day lark among Missoula friends quickly turned into a viral phenomenon over the weekend, with hundreds of people contributing posed photographs of themselves "frosting" -- an activity officially defined by the group as "a new thing where you pretend to act like the weather is nice (and) take a photo of yourself."
Of course, for some people, this wintry weather IS nice.
But, for the 1,400-plus members of Frosters Anonymous, re-enacting memories of summertime activities -- everything from sunbathing to gardening to mowing the lawn -- proved a perfect antidote to the hassles inflicted by Western Montana's recent winter storm.
"It's wintertime in Montana, so you've gotta find ways to keep yourself entertained," said local radio personality Tracy Lopez, who headed down to the ice-hemmed banks of the Clark Fork River on Friday afternoon with fellow deejay Leah Lewis to pose for a photo with their kayaks.
"It's so Missoula," she added, "and now it seems like it's getting bigger than that."
Some day, frosting historians may look back upon the morning of Thursday, Jan. 18, as the fountainhead of a fad.
Ironically, it was a day that started not with fun but with frustration for Turah resident John Brownell, who awoke to find a mess outside his kitchen window.
Heavy overnight snow had caused a canvas gazebo to collapse in Brownell's backyard. So he donned snow gear and went outside to clean up. As he moved items around on his deck, Brownell happened to toss a lawn chair into an untracked area of snow.
"It looked kind of funny and out-of-place, and it gave me the idea to set up a picture," Brownell said.
With help from his wife, Laurie, Brownell staged a photo of himself sitting in the chair, wearing a bathrobe and reading an adult magazine while he sipped a cup of coffee. A little later, he posted the photograph to Facebook.
Several of his friends commented on the photo, including Colin Hickey, who manages the wildly popular Facebook group, "Montana is for Badasses." Hickey, in turn, reposted the photograph to the group.
"Within 30 minutes, it had 200 ‘likes' and 100 shares," marveled Hickey. "It just went nuts."
Ryan "Shmed" Maynes was one of those who found the photograph humorous. Later in the afternoon, Maynes staged a couple of photographs of himself out in the snow in his underwear and posted them to his own Facebook profile.
In the process, Maynes coined the term "frosting."
"I loved the concept because it's so easy -- you just go out in the snow with nothing on and pretend like it's summer," Maynes said on Friday, shortly before he headed back outside to shoot more photographs.
"It's like planking, but cooler."
Indeed, the phenomenon bears more than a passing similarity to the "planking" craze of the past year, in which people posed for photographs while lying stiff and "plank-like" on various objects, from roadways to helicopters.
Today, Google shows more than 2.8 million Web pages referencing "planking."
"Frosting," by contrast, returns 24.9 million hits.
Granted, few of those actually refer to the new Missoula craze. But that may change soon enough.
Within 24 hours of its appearance on Facebook, the "Frosters Anonymous" group had attracted more than 500 fans and three dozen contributed photos, some arriving from the distant but similarly snowy wilds of New Prague, Minn.; Bellingham, Wash.; and elsewhere.
Other social networking sites, including Digg and Reddit, picked up on the phenomenon, as did blogs and radio programs from Missoula to Sonora, Calif.
By Saturday afternoon, the page had 1,400 fans -- and dozens more photographs of winterbound golfers, rock musicians, riverside picnics, even sunbathing babies.
"It just goes to show, it's different times now," said Hickey, who created the Facebook group and later contributed pictures of himself and his wife, Lexi, playing Risk and doing yoga in the snow.
"Used to be, things like this would just be something people would talk about with their friends and maybe a couple of people would follow up on it," Hickey added. "All of a sudden, now, we can share it with everybody, and it just takes on a life of its own."