Definition: the partially compacted granular snow that forms the surface part of the upper end of a glacier; broadly : a field of granular snow
Névé is indeed snow, although it is of a more particular kind than just “cold white stuff” (and it is also occasionally called firn). The word comes from a word in the Swiss dialect of French, and, prior to that, comes from the Latin word for snow (nix). Our language has used this Latin root to form a large number of words for snow-related things, although most of them are quite obscure. We have niveous (“resembling snow”), subnivean (“situated or occurring under the snow”), and ninguid (defined by Thomas Blount in 1656 as “where much Snow is”).
The distinction between névé and true glacier ice is plainly manifest in the Sierra Nevada glaciers, not only when viewing them from a distance, but also while traversing their surfaces.
—Israel Cook Russell, Existing Glaciers of the United States, 1885