Almost anyone can roll up a small chunk of snow and call it a snowball, but you’re a perfectionist. Whether it’s for making a snowman or lobbing snow at the neighborhood folk, you want a photo-worthy, completely round, flawless snowball. How do you make ‘em?
Here’s how to make the perfect snowball:
- Use wet but not soaking snow that’s deeper in the ground
- Wear gloves instead of mittens
- Cup the snow and rotate your hands
- Apply pressure while rotating
- When you feel resistance, stop rolling
Of course, hand-rolling isn’t your only option when making a snowball. You can always use any number of snowball-making devices on the market. Ahead, we’ll talk about our favorite such snowball makers. We’ll also elaborate on the steps above, so keep reading!
Making the Perfect Snowball by Hand – A Step-by-Step Guide
There’s something so satisfying about rolling a perfect snowball yourself. You feel so proud of your abilities, and you could be the envy of all the kids (and adults) on the block.
Like with anything, rolling snowballs well takes time and practice. The more you do it, the easier it will become. Eventually, you’ll be able to make round, tidy snowballs in your sleep.
Until you get to that point, here are the steps to follow.
Step 1: Wait for the Right Weather
The snow that fell last night will stay on the ground only if the temperatures are 32 degrees Fahrenheit or under. Check the daily temps before you head outside for the day. If today is going to be a warmer day in the 40s, there’s no sense in rolling any snowballs. They’ll be too melty and slushy. You’ll just end up frustrated and cold.
Step 2: Choose the Right Kind of Snow
We wrote about it in this post, but powdery snow is not usually conducive to making snowballs. It contains too little moisture, somewhere in the ballpark of three percent. Ideally, you want around eight percent free water.
The free water is moisture that helps snowflakes stick together so your snowballs will be tightly packed and firm. If the free water content is too much higher than eight percent, then you’ll end up with slush instead.
You don’t necessarily have to wait for the perfect snowfall though. Dry, powdery snow can become wetter by spraying it with a garden hose.
Step 3: Go Deep for Your Snow
As snow falls, it packs atop each subsequent layer. The bottommost layers or those closest to it will have firmer snow than the upper layers because the bottom layers are supporting more weight.
Since firmness is a key trait of the perfect snowball, you’ll want to dig a few inches deep into a snow pile and use that snow. Another benefit of doing this is that the snow will be cleaner than surface snow.
Step 4: Wear Gloves
We would recommend wearing winter gear from head to toe if you’re going to be outside in 30-degree weather for a couple of hours. For the sake of making snowballs though, what’s on your hands is especially important.
You cannot forego hand protection. Your fingers will go numb within five minutes and you won’t be able to roll a snowball again until you go inside and warm up. Mittens are great for insulating your digits, but they’re a poor choice for making snowballs.
You need to be able to firmly hold and squeeze the snowball (when the time comes). Mittens will just get in the way.
Use winter gloves instead. The gloves will allow some heat to exit your hands and transfer to the snowball, which makes shaping it easier.
Step 5: Cup and Gather the Snow
Now it’s time for the part you’ve eagerly been waiting for, starting the snowball-rolling process. Find a tall shelf of snow and reach your gloved hands in several inches deep. Your hands should be cupped.
The amount of snow in each cupped hand shouldn’t be overflowing, but about half a cup of snow per hand, maybe slightly more. As you feel the snow in your hands, ensure none of it is ice.
If it is, then release the snow from your hands and find another place to dig around for snow.
Step 6: Begin Rotating
Once you have two good handfuls of snow, combine the handfuls into one. This is the beginning of your snowball. Don’t admire your handiwork yet though, as you have to begin rotating immediately to meld the two chunks of snow together.
Rotating requires skill and precision, so it’s something that you should practice often. The hand rotation should go like this: imagine you had something small and delicate cupped in your hands that you didn’t want to crush.
The motion should not be fast or hard, just slow. As you get into a rhythm, that means you’re doing it correctly.
Step 7: Apply Pressure
As you begin rotating more and more, you want to increase the pressure on the snowball. Don’t change your rotation speed or rhythm though.
The amount of pressure you apply must be perfect. If you press down too hard on the snowball, it will crumble into chunks in your hands. Too little pressure can prevent the snowball from being firm. As soon as you try to throw it, it might fall apart.
You’ll know you’re doing it right when you hear the snowflakes compressing. Yes, the friction is audible provided you’re in a quiet environment.
Step 8: Know When to Stop
The rolling and pressure don’t last for an indefinite amount of time. As you keep rotating the snowball, you’ll begin to feel it working against you. At first, you can assume that you’re just tired and that’s why your snowball will barely roll.
What’s happening is your snowball is as tightly packed as it can be. The resistance is a sign to stop.
Now you can admire your snowball. If it’s not quite circular throughout, then use a hand to gently dust away excess snow and otherwise shape the snowball. Then you’re finished!
Making the Perfect Snowball with a Device – Our Favorite Picks
If you’re still getting the hang of rolling snowballs by hand, you can cheat your way there with a snowball maker. These devices ensure the uniformity and perfection of your snowballs every time.
Here are 3 such devices courtesy of Amazon that are fun and easy to use!
Hey! Play! Snowball Maker Tool
First on the list is the Hey! Play! snowball maker, which you can buy for under $10. You get two snowball makers so your kids can both make snowballs quickly and efficiently.
Each tool is 15 inches long and made of plastic. The colors are red and blue and are both bright enough that your kids can’t easily lose the snowball makers even in deep snow.
With a lengthy handle, you don’t have to touch too much snow when making snowballs so you can spare your frosty fingers. The circular mold in the center produces snowballs of an optimal diameter.
To use this snowball maker, all you have to do is open the mold, fill it with snow, and squeeze the handles to compact the snow.
E-outstanding Snowball Maker
Do you want to make more than one snowball at a time? This E-outstanding snowball maker is a clamp that can produce five snowballs.
This plastic tool in bright blue couldn’t be easier to use. It works much like a waffle maker. You open the sides, fill the five molds with snow on one side, and then press both sides of the snowball maker together.
Open the lid and voila, five perfect snowballs await you. With a tool like this, kids will line up around the block to use your snowball maker!
YHLDJXG Four-Piece Snowball Maker
We had to include this last snowball maker because it’s so fun. This tool lets you shape snow in four unique ways. One of the snowball makers produces regular round snowballs, another makes duck-shaped snow figures, a third produces heart-shaped snowballs, and the fourth makes small snowmen.
All four snowball makers are plastic and feature long handles to prevent freezing cold hands. Although you won’t win any snowball fights with this tool, you can decorate your snowmen in interesting ways!
Making the perfect snowball requires deep, firmly packed snow, a warm pair of gloves, and a good rotating technique. Until you master rolling snowballs by hand, you can always use a snowball maker.