It seems so simple in theory: just ball up some snow, make it round, and voila, you’ve got the perfect little snowball. In practice though, it doesn’t always go that way. That makes you wonder, is making snowballs difficult?
Snowballs can be hard to make depending on your experience level, the type of snow that’s fallen, and your technique. Once you learn how to make snowballs and practice at it, it should get a lot easier! Let’s learn how to make a snowball.
This guide will first explore whether it’s difficult to make perfectly round little snowballs and then provide some tips that will help you do just that, so definitely check it out!
Is It Hard to Make Snowballs?
You can ask 10 people if it’s hard to make snowballs and all of them will have a different answer.
That’s because making snowballs comes down to a lot of things. If you excel at more of them than you don’t, then you’ll find it easy to make snowballs.
Let’s take a look at the factors that are at play.
Your Experience Level
Just because you’ve seen it done effortlessly in movies and TV shows or by the neighbor kids around town doesn’t mean that making snowballs is as simple as it seems.
It’s about more than collecting a chunk of snow from the ground and going to town, as we’ll talk more about shortly.
Those who are completely inexperienced at making snowballs will naturally struggle more with the activity to start.
As you begin practicing more and working on your snowball technique, your experience will increase, and making snowballs will be no big deal.
The Type of Snow on the Ground
By far the biggest determining factor in your ease or difficulty in rolling snowballs is what kind of snow you have.
If powdery, light snow is common in your neck of the woods, then it’s no wonder you think it’s nearly impossible to make snowballs! Check out “Can You Make a Snowball in Powdery Snow?”
It’s not that the task is impossible, just that you have the wrong type of snow for the job.
You see, most types of snow contain water, and that’s what holds a snowball together.
You can think of water like glue.
Imagine you’re working on an arts and crafts project without glue, which would be the case when trying to make a snowball using powdery snow. Nothing sticks, right?
Of course, too much of a good thing can quickly become a bad thing.
For instance, if you oversaturate an arts and crafts project with glue, you get a sticky, sopping mess.
The amount of water in snow is known as its free water content.
If snow contains between eight and 13 percent free water, then it has just enough glue where the snow will stick enough for you to roll snowballs. You can also make snowmen and snow igloos if you were feeling motivated enough.
When free water content drops below eight percent, it’s a no-go. Similarly, when the free water content exceeds 13 percent, that’s too much water.
Now the snow is too slushy to do anything with. It may have stick, but it doesn’t have structure!
Another consideration to keep in mind when trying to roll snowballs is the outdoor temperature.
Ideally, you want to work in temps that are around 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
At this temperature, the free water content in the snow is intact.
If it gets too much warmer, then what was once perfectly good snow for making a snowball could become too slushy.
In colder temperatures still, such as those under 30 degrees, the water in the snow could have frozen.
Now the snow will be hard and unpliable, the opposite of what you need to make a snowball.
As we alluded to earlier in this section, there is indeed an art to making snowballs.
It entails a technique that we’ll divulge in the next section.
You need to follow the proper technique, learning when the right time is to put on pressure and when to let that pressure go.
If you’re too light-handed when making a snowball, then the snow crystals might not be packed tightly together enough to make a snowball.
When you’re too heavy-handed, you can start to roll a perfect snowball and then crumble it to powder in your hands!
Tips for Making the Perfect Snowball
Wow, you had never realized that so much went into making snowballs before.
Indeed, it’s not as thoughtless of a process as it looks. There’s a lot of precision and weather-related luck at play.
Once you have the perfect snow and the ideal temperature, these tips will help you make beautiful snowballs you’ll be proud of!
Reach Deep into the Snow
The snow on the surface might be more convenient since it’s accessible, but that doesn’t make it the best to use.
The snow that’s under the surface is more firmly packed, and that’s what you want for producing snowballs that stick, especially when you lob them in the air!
You don’t have to grab your shovel and dig deep. Going just several inches below the surface more than suffices.
Wear the Right Gloves for the Job
When you’re outside working and playing with snow, you need to keep your hands warm first and foremost, but the hand protection you wear does matter.
Mittens are great for warming up your fingers, but not so much for making snowballs. You lack the digit dexterity you need to pull off a perfect snowball.
You need gloves instead. It doesn’t matter so much which gloves, but your gloves should be water-resistant at the very least and ideally waterproof. These are the snow gloves I buy for my kids and they love them!
You don’t want your hands to get soaked when handling snow to make snowballs or you’ll be inside sipping hot cocoa before you know it. Your snow day will be cut tragically short!
Always Work with Clean Snow
The jokes about yellow snow notwithstanding, you do want to use snow that’s as clean and pristine as possible.
We’d doubly recommend that if you’re using the snowballs for a snowball fight or a snowman.
You can always pick a loose stick or twig out of the snow, but if there are several leaves or clumps of dirt buried in there, go to a different part of the lawn for the snow.
Try to stay away from the street when choosing snow, especially if you already used your snowblower or the plow came by.
That snow is not only dirty but it’s hard as a rock!
A Handful of Snow Suffices
Speaking of selecting your snow, how much do you need to make a snowball?
Well, you’ll whittle down the size of the snowball as you go, but there’s no need to start with a huge block of snow.
You only need about as much as you can fit in each fistful.
When you pick up the snow, keep your hands cupped.
If that sounds too slow, don’t stress. Your ability to make snowballs will speed up as you practice!
Rotate and Rotate Some More
You have your handful of snow, so now it’s time to begin molding it.
This is how you get the perfect spherical shape you desire and is part of the technique that goes into making snowballs.
With clumps of snow in two hands, move your hands near one another, then rotate.
This will push the snow together, which seems messy at first, but we swear, it’s all part of the process.
Your rotations should be rhythmic and never too fast. Both hands should move, not necessarily in unison, but neither should stop.
Put on the Pressure
After a couple of rotations, it’s time to turn up the pressure.
Yes, we’re telling you to press down on your snowball. Don’t be hard on it!
At first, just start with a little bit of pressure and keep rotating the snowball. Then build up the pressure.
How much pressure is too much? Those first few times you’re making a snowball, you’ll probably find out through personal experience.
You’ll have a good-sized and shaped snowball in your hands, you’ll keep rotating it around, and then squish! It crumbles into a trillion small powdery pieces.
In other cases, you’ll be too afraid of repeating your mistakes, so you’ll stop applying pressure early. The snowball looks like it’s in good shape, but as soon as you try to do anything with it, it falls apart.
The right amount of pressure is firm enough to maintain the snowball but not so firm that you break it.
You will find this recommended pressure as you go, so don’t be afraid to sacrifice a few would-be snowballs until you get there.
Know When to Stop
There is a stopping point when rotating and applying pressure on the growing snowball. That perfect spot is when the snowball begins resisting your efforts.
The first few times you make snowballs, you might miss this indicator, assuming that you’re getting tired and you just need to keep at it. Then you’ll crumble your snowball without meaning to.
Later, you’ll learn that when the snowball doesn’t want to be rotated any further, that it becoming difficult to rotate is not because you’re exhausted. It’s because the snowball is ready.
Fix It Up
The last step of making a snowball is by far the most fun.
Polish the snowball and shape it so it’s completely spherical.
That said, don’t be too much of a perfectionist here.
The reason that a snowball sticks in the first place is not only because of free water content but because the heat from your hands helps the snow crystals meld together.
Too much heat can cause a snowball to melt, so after a while, you don’t want to handle it too much.
Store and Use
You can place your snowball in a pile of snow, adding to it if you’re planning on having a snowball fight.
Each sphere that you worked so hard to create should stay separate in the snow pile, so don’t worry.
For more tips of making the perfect snowball, click here.
When in Doubt – Use a Snowball Maker!
Are you struggling and struggling to make a snowball even though the snow and temperature are just fine?
Fortunately, commercial snowball makers are very common tricks of the trade.
You should still reach deep into the snow with one of these snowball makers, but then it does all the rest. It will shape and mold your snowball without you having to rotate or apply any pressure.
Each snowball will be completely uniform in shape and size, and you can produce a greater number of snowballs in a short amount of time, which is quite appealing!
If you’re having a hard time making snowballs, could it be that the snow is too powdery when it should be wetter?
The best snow for rolling snowballs has a free water content between eight and 13 percent.
The temperature could also be too cold or too warm.
Make sure you’re practicing your technique as well, which will take some patience–not to mention trial and error–before you get it right.
While a snowball maker is always there as a go-to, there’s nothing better than learning to roll a snowball!