How to Build The Best Snowman...According to Science

Building a snowman is one of the best things about winter, especially when you’re a kid. But sometimes no matter how hard you try, it seems your Frosty or Olaf crumbles or its head falls off or it just won’t come together. And that’s where science can help us. Knowing about the different physical properties of snow and the physics of snowballs can come in handy.

  • Snow matters - With snow, the size of the snowflake doesn’t matter as much as its moisture content. According to Dan Snowman - yep, that’s his real name - and he’s a physicist with Rhode Island College, snow comes in five categories based on the amount of free water relative to ice crystals. Try to make a snowman with dry snow, and it won’t stick together or use slush and it doesn’t work at all. The sweet spot is using moist snow (which has less than 3% water) and wet snow (with 3 to 8% water) for your snowman.
  • Location, location, location - After you have the right snow for building your creation, you need the right spot for construction. Look for level ground, but stay away from asphalt, since it absorbs sunlight and will make your snowman melt sooner. Your best bet is somewhere shaded from the sun on a flat spot in the yard.
  • Shape matters - The reason most snow people you see are made of balls is that a sphere is the best shape to create a body for a person made of snow, according to “ The Smithsonian .” Making snowballs keeps your snowman sable and helps it stick around longer because spheres melt slower than other shapes since less area is exposed to sunlight. And the old rule of stacking the biggest at the base, medium in the middle and smallest on top for the head will help keep the snow person upright.
  • Size matters too - An experiment at West Virginia’s Bluefield State College found an spheres: from bottom to top, 3:2:1. Just don’t make the snow balls too big or they won’t pack well and Frosty’s structure may be too unstable.

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