You’ve been trying to roll snowball after snowball in powdery snow until your hands have gone numb. You just want a few snowballs, as you know that tossing them with the kids would make them happy. Is there any way to make powdery snow stickier so you can use it for more?
Yes, you can make powdery snow sticky with a little bit of water. Depending on how much snow you want to wet, you can use a gardening hose to lightly mist the snow or even several buckets of water. Waterproof gloves are a must!
In this article, we’ll talk about what powdery snow is, how to moisten it, and what you can do with your newly sticky snow. Winter enthusiasts are not going to want to miss this one, especially if you have bored kids in the house!
What Is Powdery Snow? How Come You Can’t Build with It?
Let’s start from the top and talk about powdery snow and where it comes from.
Whether you get powdery snow comes down to two factors, the amount of free water and the surface temperature when the snow falls.
- Surface Temperature
Snow will only fall when temperatures are 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Yet the surface temperature is not uniform every time snow events occur. Depending on whether the surface temperature is above or below freezing, you have wetter or drier snow.
Cold surface temperatures that are almost to the point of freezing but not quite will cause the falling snow to come down already slightly melted. This increases the amount of moisture in the snowfall, which means the snow will be wetter and heavier.
For powdery snow to form, the surface temperature needs to be below freezing, either slightly under or well under. This keeps the snow from melting, reducing its amount of moisture.
- Free Water Content
As you might have guessed, moisture plays a big role in the texture of snow. The free water content is the percentage of moisture in the snow. When the free water content is under eight percent, then your snow is powdery and loose.
If the free water content is at eight percent or slightly over, then the snow is wet but not soaking. In other words, it’s perfect for building with.
Free water that’s around 13 percent and certainly higher is going to be too saturated with water to be good for much. It’s just slush and it’s not even fun to shovel!
Why You Can’t Build Snow Structures with Powdery Snow
In the intro, we mentioned an example where you try and try to make a snowball using powdery snow, but the snowflakes just don’t want to stick together. It doesn’t matter how many times you do this; it’s not going to happen.
Moisture in snow is like glue. It keeps the snow crystals together so the snow can bind into a shape of your choosing. With too little glue, such as with powdery snow, nothing sticks. Too much glue, as in the case of slushy snow, and everything is a mess and not conducive to building. The amount of free water or glue must be just right.
How to Make Powdery Snow Sticky – Everything You Need to Know
Are you stuck with powdery snow? You have two options. You can wait for that ever-elusive perfect snowfall that may never come, or you can take the powdery snow you have now and try to make it into something useful.
Personally, we vote for the latter!
Making powdery snow sticky doesn’t involve much, just water. As we touched on in the intro, we always suggest wearing waterproof gloves.
SEALSKINZ unisex gloves come highly recommended. These gloves are made of a mix of elastane (two percent), nylon (14 percent), and ultra-warming merino wool (84 percent). The triple-layered protection will keep your digits warm as you handle wet snow.
Once you have your gloves on, here are your options for making powdery snow sticky.
The Garden Hose Method
We advise building your snow structure near a source of water if the snow is powdery and you need it to be sticky. If you’re in the side yard or the backyard and you have perfect virgin snow you want to build with, then find your garden hose and screw it onto the tap.
There’s no need to use a heavy water spray here, as you don’t want to oversaturate the snow. Wet it until you can feel the moisture on top of the snow’s formerly dry surface, then turn off your hose. You can now begin working with that snow.
The Water and Bucket Method
If you can’t get your tap to turn on because it’s frozen solid, don’t panic. You can always use a bucket to dump water on the powdery snow. We’d suggest this option if you need to wet large amounts of snow quickly.
The water can be from outdoors or indoors. Your waterproof gloves will come in handy here as you walk with the bucket, especially if you accidentally tilt the bucket and some of the water spills.
Pour the water onto the powdery snow and wait. The texture of the snow will change fast.
What Can You Make with Sticky Snow?
As we’ve talked about on the blog here and here, powdery snow isn’t good for making many snow structures. Sticky snow though is an entirely different story. The snow will contain enough free water content that you can build to your heart’s content.
Here are some ideas to get you started.
Now that you’ve moistened the powdery snow, try rolling another snowball. This time, it will come together smoothly and easily just as it should. We’ve talked about how to make the perfect snowball on the blog, so give that article a read.
Although we normally recommend digging deep into a pile of snow to make a snowball, that snow is likely powdery too. For your purposes, if the snow is clean enough, then stick to the wettened surface snow.
Then gather a handful of snow in your palm and start rotating it. The motion might feel a little awkward at first, but it will become more fluid as you go. After a bit of snowball rolling, start to apply pressure until the snowball feels like it’s fighting back against you.
The right amount of pressure is key, as too little won’t allow the snowball to bind and too much can crush the snowball in your hand like it’s powdery snow.
Of course, you can always use snowball-making tools to get perfect snowballs every time!
If you couldn’t roll a snowball before in powdery snow, then making a snowman certainly would not have worked. You were better off not trying and saving yourself the frustration.
Now that you have wetter snow, you and the kids can spend the afternoon crafting the best snowman ever. The base of the snowman should several feet, so you’ll need quite a lot of wet snow. The water and bucket method ought to work better for your purposes.
Then, to keep your snowman secure, follow the 1:2:3 ratio. The ratio refers to a head with a one-foot diameter, a midsection with a two-foot diameter, and a base with a three-foot diameter.
Are you stumped on how to decorate your snowman? Fortunately for you, we have a post full of awesome and affordable snowman accessories that will be sure to make your new snow friend the most unique and interesting one on the block!
If you have a couple of hours, some patience, and plenty of water, you can make your kids’ winter by building them their very own igloo. We went over the steps for doing so in this post, so we’ll recap for you now.
An igloo should be between nine and 12 inches in size. Make an outline for where you want your igloo to go, then wet your snow and start building from the bottom. You should form the structure of the igloo from the back to the front so you can wrap up by building the smaller, narrower entrance.
Make sure that as the walls get taller that they curve so they take on the shape of a true igloo.
Are you going to wage a snowball war with the kids on the street? Then having a snow fort to hide behind is integral so you can guide your team to victory. A snow fort doesn’t have to be as involved as an igloo, which is good news if your digits are already going numb.
The best snow forts have small openings for your teammates to look out from so they can determine what the other team is doing. The walls should be tall too so they provide adequate cover.
No matter which snow structure of the four that most appeals to you and the kids, there are some basic rules you can follow to preserve them.
Always build your snow structure away from direct sunlight and watch out for indirect sunlight as well.
On days that are going to be warmer than 32 degrees, it’s not a bad idea to pour more water on your snow structure. By sundown or nightfall, the water will freeze, which solidifies your snow structure.
Making powdery snow sticky is as simple as wetting it. Then you’re free to use the previously useless powdery snow to create snowmen, snow forts, igloos, or snowballs.
Our word of advice? Don’t soak the whole yard in water. Wet snow is harder to shovel than the powdery stuff, so you’ll just create more work for yourself!