I think the “phrase comma phrase” construction you’re concerned about arises at least in part because you seem to be thinking in terms of evocative phrases without considering how they relate to one another. Good descriptive writing to my mind should function less as a painted picture and more as a guided tour. There should be a specific purpose behind both what you choose to describe and how you order those descriptions. If you’re just listing sensory details, its easy to fall
Into a monotonous sentence rhythm.
“A cold winter’s dawn”, for example, is just kind of hanging out there, a noun and a couple of adjectives that don’t immediately relate to the second half of the sentence outside of a general sense of coldness. Your last sentence is similarly incohesive and a bit of a runon as a result. I think you want to say that the thick snow is the reason for the slow pace, but you don’t explicitly draw the connection. The sentence ends up scanning for me as just two unrelated ideas thrown together. Consider the same phrases in a different arrangement:
The cold winter’s dawn finds you trudging through the Great Northern Forest at a slow pace. As the air bites at your face, you grip tightly to your fur coat. It is the only defence you have against the elements. The snow is deep this time of year, a dingy white repainting of the world before you.
I couldn’t say how other writers work, but my own personal style is to think of description as its own mini narrative, implicitly tracking the awareness of the POV character. In other words, description is still basically action: the act of noticing. I think this is approach is especially useful in the “2nd person present tense” style of most choice games. The poin, after all, is to place the player directly into the head of the PC.
So, for the above, the charactet is in the middle of a long, arduous task and at first her mind’s only registering a zoned out awareness of time and place. Then the wind kicks up and demands an immediate reaction, pulling her back into the immediate moment. She grabs at her coat, which naturally leads her to ponder its role in her current situation. No longer zoned out, she takes stock of her surroundings. The first thing she notices is of course the snow because it’s so thoroughly everywhere.
This structure in turn helps guide the reader through the moment, giving them information in a useful, intelligible order. General stage setting, then the activity of the present moment, then context and sensory detail.
In fact, if I were writing this, I’d be inclined to make the narrative element more explicit:
The cold winter’s dawn finds you in the Great Northern Forest, slowly trudging through the deep snow. As the air bites at your face, you grip tightly to the fur coat that is your only defense against the elements. Blinking the frost out of your eyes, you take in your surroundings. The early light, filtered through thick leafless branches, washes out the pristine white of the snow, repainting your whole world a dingy grey. Letting out an almost imperceptible sigh, you resume putting one foot methodically in front of the other.
This is hardly an action packed paragraph, nothing really happens. And I haven’t subtracted any of the sensory detail from the original. But now there’s a dynamic flow to everything; nothing is described unless its directly relevant to what the character is doing in the immediate present of the sentence. I tacked on the final sentence just to give a natural endpoint to the paragraph. It may or may not be useful depending on what follows, but it concludes a miniature story arc about the character moving from a zoned out, thoughtless state, to a more immediately aware one, and back again.