How to Keep a Snowman from Melting

You worked really, really hard on your snowman, putting hours into his perfect sculpting, assembly, and decoration. Sure, you took lots of pictures, and pictures are worth a thousand words, but you don’t just want a picture. You want your snowman to stick around for as long as possible without melting. Is there any way to hold onto your snow friend for longer?

To keep your snowman from melting, try the following methods:

  • Move your snowman away from the sun
  • Put an ice bucket or cooler near your snowman
  • Build an ice cellar
  • Make pykrete 
  • Insulate your snowman 
  • Use ammonium chloride salt

Ahead, we’ll elaborate on each of the above 6 cold-maintaining methods so your snowman will be the longest-lasting one on the block. Keep reading, as you’re definitely not going to want to miss it!  

6 Smart, Scientific Methods for Preventing a Snowman from Melting

Keep Your Snowman Out of the Sun

Yes, we’re starting with an easy one, but it’s worth mentioning nevertheless. Where you put your snowman matters. You don’t necessarily have to build him in the same place he’ll live in, but that’s always recommended if you can swing it. Transferring a snowman is difficult, nerve-wracking work. If your snow dude isn’t totally stable, he’ll come toppling down and not survive the trip.

As air temperature fluctuates throughout a winter’s day according to cloud cover, sunshine, and wind, your snowman is susceptible to those fluctuations. 

When the sun rises and the day begins, the air is warmer, as is the outdoor temperature. This may continue into the afternoon before the temperature tapers off in the evening. Even still, it only takes temperatures of 32 degrees Fahrenheit for the sun to begin melting snow.   

Part of it has to do with the angle of the sun in the winter. As the season gets underway in December, the sun angle is 27 degrees, limiting the amount of direct sun we get through January. Then, as winter progresses, the sun angle does too, becoming 36 degrees by late February and 47 degrees at the beginning of spring.

The angle of the sun can make you feel cold in the winter even when it’s sunny, but the presence of any sun is enough to melt your snowman if it’s 32 degrees out. Thus, a shady spot is best for the snowman. 

Also, do yourself a favor and study those sun angles since you plan on having your snowman for a while. You would hate to put your snowman in a place that seems safe in January only to have the sun angle change by February so your snowman is exposed to the full brunt of the sun. 

Put an Ice Bucket or Cooler Near Your Snowman

Snow and ice share a lot in common, such as their base ingredient, which is water. However, ice is only frozen water whereas snow is the atmospheric vapor that freezes over. Another difference between the two is that ice melts slower than snow. 

You may wonder how that can be? Allow us to explain. Snow has a greater surface area, but ice has more density. Due to its higher density, you need more heat fusion to melt ice than you do snow. 

Granted, snow and ice don’t necessarily melt at significantly different rates from one another since they’re both made of water. That said, since ice lasts longer, surrounding your snowman with ice might help prolong its life, at least to a degree. 

Do keep in mind that ice has a higher thermal conductivity than snow, which means it can generate heat more easily. With snow, its thermal conductivity only melts the outer layer, leaving the inner layers intact. Ice also has a high albedo, or a solar radiation reflection measurement. 

What does all this mean? That ice can work to maintain your snowman to some extent, since it’s an extra layer to melt, but that ice isn’t your best option. That’s why we suggest using an ice cooler or ice packs around your snowman. Spritzing the snowman with a spray bottle so the water freezes and becomes ice could accelerate melting, not prevent it. 

Build an Ice Cellar

Are you the handy type? If you’re really serious about keeping your snowman for as long as you can, then you might build him his own ice cellar, also known as an icehouse. These are olden inventions for sure, as icehouses were created out of a need to keep ice around before people had the convenience of refrigerators. 

In those days, people would gather ice from frozen rivers or lakes, often cutting the ice into manageable chunks. Then they’d add sawdust or straw to the icehouse for insulation and put the ice in their ice cellar. For months or sometimes the whole rest of the year, the ice would remain, keeping them cool as the weather warmed in the spring and summer. 

If you can build an ice cellar for your snowman, then you can expect to have him around for months, maybe even until next winter! 

An ice chamber or icehouse can look like just about anything; here’s a link with photos of icehouses for your inspiration. As you can see, they range from warehouses to homes to structures with beautiful architecture. 

The only downside of using an ice cellar for your snowman is that you can’t show him off on the front yard anymore. You’ll have to come visit him in the ice cellar, but at least you won’t have to worry about him melting. 

Make Pykrete

Go back up a few paragraphs. You’ll see that in the days of icehouses, people used sawdust to preserve their ice chunks. This is important, as sawdust allows you to build a substance known as pykrete. 

Pykrete is a frozen alloy made with ice (86 percent) and wood pulp such as sawdust (14 percent). The resulting substance is called pykrete due to its founder, Geoffrey Pyke. In the midst of World War II, Pyke suggested using his new creation to make aircraft carriers the British Royal Navy would use.

You can make pykrete at home in your kitchen, and once you do, you’ll notice that it doesn’t behave like standard snow. It has lower thermal conductivity, so it doesn’t melt fast at all. It’s also tougher and stronger than snow and even ice. Shaping pykrete is not necessarily easy, and even concrete is workable with less difficulty. Freezing pykrete can make it expand, but adding seawater or bringing down the temperature can get your pykrete usable again.

When you’re not building a snowman with pykrete, you should store it somewhere cold so it can stay icy. Maybe your ice cellar? Why not, as you certainly have the space!

How can you use pykrete to make your snowman last longer? Well, you can always toss some sawdust into a good-sized pile of snow on your lawn and use that snow to roll up a new snowman. You can also make pykrete reinforcements after your snowman is built and pack onto him with the stuff. 

The Vienna University of Technology made an ice dome of pykrete in 2011 that lasted for three months. It was a large structure too with a diameter of 33 feet. Several years later in Juuka, Finland, the Eindhoven University of Technology one-upped Vienna with a sizable ice dome of their own. It didn’t last nearly as long, only a few days, but that seems to be due to construction error on the part of the builders and not related to the pykrete. 

Insulate Your Snowman

You’re sure you must be reading this next tip wrong. Why would you want to insulate your snowman? Isn’t insulating just packing something with warmth? That’ll surely make your snowman melt.

You’d be surprised! When you put a coat on, the reason you’re warm is due to the insulating abilities of the coat, not because you have another layer on. To insulate simply means to retain body warmth or another source of generated heat. 

Since insulation can protect from thermal exchanges that happen either way, leaning both warmer and colder, insulating your snowman will keep him cool, not warm him up faster. 

Just think back to those original icehouses if you need further proof. The people who built those ice palaces always used sawdust or straw as an insulator, yet their ice blocks lasted for months and months. 

You can always do a quick experiment for the day to see the power of insulation in action. Make two basic snowmen of the same size. Then put a coat on one but not the other. Check both of the snowmen throughout the day and into the next day. The snowman without the coat melted faster, didn’t he? We’re sure he did. 

Use Ammonium Chloride Salt

Remember earlier in this guide we discussed that snow will begin melting at 32 degrees? That temperature is also known as its melting point. Ice has the same melting point.

What does an average winter day look like for you? That depends on which part of the country you live in. Unless you call the south home though, most state average temperatures for the winter are 10 to 35 degrees. That puts you right in range for your snowman to begin melting if he spends the day outside. 

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could make snow’s melting point even lower? Of course, you’re no wizard, so surely that’s not possible. Or is it?

Ammonium chloride is a slightly acidic inorganic compound that’s very water-soluble. When used on water and ice solutions, the salt may be able to reduce the melting point of those solutions. 

Besides ammonium chloride, calcium chloride hexahydrate should work well too, as it’s a calcium salt. If you have a weight ratio of calcium chloride hexahydrate that’s 1 to 2.5 times greater than ice, you could decrease the melting point of the ice to around -50 degrees. 

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Final Thoughts

It doesn’t matter if you’re a child or an adult, saying goodbye to your snowman is always difficult. What if you could extend the amount of time you have with your snowman? It’s possible, but you’ll have to get creative and a little scientific to make it happen.

Whether you choose to use a chloride salt, build an ice chamber for your snowman, or reinforce him with pykrete, you have no shortage of options for a longer-lasting snowman. Everyone on the block will want to know how you did it! 

Snowman Calculator

If you want to really geek out on making your perfect snowman then this is the tool for you! Using the Fibonacci sequence, Anna Szczepanek, Ph.D. created the Snowman Calculator help tell you how long your snowman will last according to the amount of snowfall, size of the snowman balls, and whether. Check it out, it’s awesome!

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Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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