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Just For Fun: The Perfect Snowball

Posted January 29, 2013 2:54 PM by Chelsey H
Pathfinder Tags: snow snowball snowball fight winter

Winter is in full swing in Upstate New York. I've already griped many times about how much I dislike the winter and getting hit with a snowball might be on the top of the list of reasons to move south. (To be fair, hitting someone with a snowball is the top of the list of reasons to like the winter.) Making the perfect snowball requires particular conditions and some dedication. Fortunately for you, I found some tips on how to make the perfect snowball.

Image Credit: Futurenostalgia

Sticky snow is the key to the perfect snowball. Powdery snow won't hold together and slushy snow will turn into a useless hunk of ice. Sticky snow, also known as packing snow, forms when the temperature hovers around 32°F (0°C) and when the air is not too dry. According to Jordy Hendrikx, director of the Snow and Avalanche Laboratory at Montana State University, snow at this temperature doesn't contain any liquid water so when the grains of ice begin to melt, each one forms a wet meniscus. The menisci work as "snowball glue" which refreezes.

Image Credit: Guardian

In order to make a snowball, you should scoop up a blob of snow that's a little more than your cupped hands can hold since you'll lose some as you start to pack. Begin squeezing the snow together into a ball using gentle but firm pressure to ensure the ice grain melt and refreeze. Continue to twist the snow in your hands until you have a sphere (aka a snowball.)

In a casual (read: snow day war) snowball fight, the surface moisture is the most important factor. While packing a snowball you might be able create enough force that some of the snow crosses the pressure threshold which causes it to liquefy and refreeze, the amount of pressure you would need to melt ice could only be created in space or a lab. The trick to making a snowball with low-moisture snow is to find a place where the snow is slightly warmer, such as closer to your house. If all else fails just lie in the snow for a few minutes; the heat from your body should melt the snow a bit and provide the moisture needed for packing. If the snow is a few inches deep, skip the snow on the surface. The bottom layer of snow will already be a bit packed and save you some work.

Some tips:

  • It doesn't make a difference if you make the snowball with your bare hands or gloved hands, so you're better off wearing gloves so your hands don't get cold. This also means you can make more snowballs.

Snowballs get better after sitting for a bit since they will have a chance to refreeze and pack tighter. If you can, make the snowballs ahead of time.

So, if we have to be stuck with this snow a bit longer we might as well have some fun with an epic snowball fight!

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#1

Re: Just For Fun: The Perfect Snowball

01/29/2013 3:05 PM

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#2

Re: Just For Fun: The Perfect Snowball

01/29/2013 3:35 PM

Snowballs are awesome. Word to the wise...don't EVER yawn whilst engaging in a snowball fight. Ever try to dig one out of your mouth?

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#3

Re: Just For Fun: The Perfect Snowball

01/29/2013 6:24 PM

If you're like me (when I was a kid) and you have multiple brothers to have snowballs fights with, the last barrage of snowballs requires a nice hard lump of ice inside each one for maximum pain infliction.

/Careful! You're gonna put somebody's eye out!

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#4

Re: Just For Fun: The Perfect Snowball

01/29/2013 6:31 PM

Can't talk about the snow without including a classic from 'Calvin and Hobbes'.

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#5

Re: Just For Fun: The Perfect Snowball

01/30/2013 7:58 AM

We built snow-forts on both sides of the county road going down a steepish hill. Many snowballs were made in advance and were flying, the war was on... Until a car would come. Nothing unifies like an alien invader. The "perfect snowball" was thrown, never mind by whom, which went straight into the gap of a slightly rolled down side window of Ol'Man Johnson's pickup truck and knocked his hat off. He jammed on the brakes, slid to a stop, jumped out and took off running after us. We screamed and ran, but then we noticed that the truck was now freely rolling down the road, as he hadn't put on the hand-brake in his haste. Now we were screaming for him to get his truck. He ran hard but not fast enough. The truck made it all the way to the bottom of the hill, jumped the guard rail, and found its way into the middle of the river where it stopped. We ran, and ran, only impeded by laughter and some guilt, but mostly laughter.

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#6

Re: Just For Fun: The Perfect Snowball

01/30/2013 8:02 AM

Very good - but I bet you don't think winter is in full swing today. Just watched footage of near flooding from the ice jams in Buffalo on Casanovia Creek from the weather in the high 50's with a predicted high of over 60F today along with thunderstorms. Where is your snowball now?

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#7
In reply to #6

Re: Just For Fun: The Perfect Snowball

01/30/2013 9:12 AM

Phys - Same here in east central US - 61 yesterday and minor flooding.

Regards - KJK/USA

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#9
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Re: Just For Fun: The Perfect Snowball

01/30/2013 10:09 AM

When I was a kid in Ohio there were some January days I'd be riding my bike wearing jeans and a T-shirt. Temporary mid-Winter warm-ups aren't unusual.

Give the weather a day or two, the snow and freezing temps will be back, and these warm temperatures will just be a muddy memory.

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Re: Just For Fun: The Perfect Snowball

01/30/2013 10:14 AM

Yeah - Buffalo is expecting a high of 19 by Saturday - the lake effect snow warnings are in place starting tomorrow into Friday. Maybe a foot in some locals.

If it wasn't for lake effects, this area of the country would be a desert. Major storms almost always bypass here.

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#8

Re: Just For Fun: The Perfect Snowball

01/30/2013 9:48 AM

Heck with the perfect snowball. Just give me perfect aim.

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#11
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Re: Just For Fun: The Perfect Snowball

01/30/2013 12:36 PM

That's how I feel! What good is the perfect snowball if it smashes on the ground feet from the target?! I have terrible aim

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Re: Just For Fun: The Perfect Snowball

01/30/2013 12:44 PM

What we need is a targeting system for them.

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#13
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Re: Just For Fun: The Perfect Snowball

01/30/2013 12:53 PM

Nope. You need an improved delivery system. Oh, I don't know...howsabout a slingshot, or a catapult, or a trebuchet, a sneak attack...

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In reply to #13

Re: Just For Fun: The Perfect Snowball

01/30/2013 3:49 PM

That's what I need - my left shoulder was seperated in a bike crash and is about worthless while my right shoulder has the the wonderful side effects of being a reasonabley good baseball pitcher when they didn't understand you had to rest a kid at least one day of the week. (I can still throw underhanded - not too intimidating in a snowball fight)

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#16
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Re: Just For Fun: The Perfect Snowball

01/30/2013 7:27 PM

From Kris del laboratories....our motto, if you want it we will make it.....then move

Combination snowball maker and launch apparatus....call for quantity discounts

starting at just $300...

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#15

Re: Just For Fun: The Perfect Snowball

01/30/2013 4:26 PM

"It doesn't make a difference if you make the snowball with your bare hands or gloved hands,"

Ya think? I found that I could pack them much more tightly bare-handed because gloves always tended to spread-out the force somewhat when mashing the snow into a ball. Easier to shape them and faster, too. In the heat of the snowball fight (sorry about the pun) I didn't notice my hands turning blue with cold. The worst part came later, was I when thawing out my hands inside the house where it was warm. Talk about tingling pain about midway through the process. Then it was back to the battle raging outside and freezing hands. We didn't care; we were having too much fun! Hardly ever get snow here, but up north it was deep enough sometimes that we could make tunnels through it after a really good storm.

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#17

Re: Just For Fun: The Perfect Snowball

01/31/2013 7:17 PM

Ah yes; I remember the snowball fights of yesteryear. That was a different time. Today, if you hit someone with a snowball, you might end up in court, charged with assault and battery.

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#18
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Re: Just For Fun: The Perfect Snowball

01/31/2013 7:22 PM

America, Land of the Sued, Home of the Litigious.

How's about we line up all those fat-cat, skanky lawyers and pelt them with a few well-placed iceballs, neh? I can think of several I would thoroughly enjoy shot-peening with barrage or ten, possibly with mechanical assist.

And their clients.

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#19
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Re: Just For Fun: The Perfect Snowball

02/01/2013 12:57 AM

I found some ammo....

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Users who posted comments:

Chelsey H (1); europium (2); kendall (1); KJK/USA (1); ozzb (2); Phys (3); ronseto (1); SolarEagle (3); Steve of the North (2); Usbport (3)

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