Cold weather and accumulating snow might make for treacherous driving, but for kids (and the young at heart) piles of winter snow provide a winter wonderland of imagination and creation. Often times, making a pleasant addition to the yard in front of your home can both add to the ambiance of the neighborhood and possibly increase the value of your home. But what if that addition carries a crooked smile and is inherently temporary? One of the enduring icons of the season is winter’s ubiquitous snowman — a favorite of young and old alike; a construction as simple as they come. But a simple construction doesn’t necessarily mean an elementary one. Here’s how to build a snowman that will make be the envy of your neighbors and the coolest on the block:
Light, fluffy powder might be the best for backcountry skiing, but for building a snowman, it’s often considered the worst. You want wet snow – not slushy, but packable snow that sticks to itself and can be formed and shaped. The best snow is usually found when the temperature hovers just above or below freezing, according to artofmanliness.com. Sometimes snow falls when the air temperature is in this range, but if not, don’t despair. Temperatures well below freezing will often produce dry powder snow because of a lack of humidity in the air. If this happens, wait until temperatures begin to rise and the snow becomes wetter.
Start by rolling a small snowball so that layer after layer of ground-snow sticks to the snowball. Be sure to roll equally in all directions so that the ball remains round. The size of your snowman is obviously up to you, the amount of snow available and how much muscle you have to roll and lift the snowballs – wet snow gets heavy fast!
When you finish rolling the snowball that will be the base of snowman, roll second and third snowballs that are proportionately smaller to act as the midriff and head of your snowman. Before stacking each ball on top of the other, flatten the edges of where each ball will meet the next – this will add stability to your creation.
If the snowball body parts become too heavy to lift, you can use a wooden plank (such as a sheet of plywood) to make a ramp to roll the ball into position atop the preceding one.
Snowmen have a finite lifecycle. When it warms above 32 degrees, they begin to wither away. There’s not much you can do about rising temperatures, but you can help prolong your winter family member’s life with two simple steps:
First, begin with the end in mind. When you’re rolling that first snowball and creating the base for your snowman, pick an end location that is in the shade. Lower temperatures and protection from direct sunlight will help reduce melting.
Second, after your snowman is built and when it’s below freezing, spray your snowman down with water so that the outside of it ices over. It will take higher temps and more time to melt this ice (because of increased density compared to relatively new snow), which when combined with shade will maximize the life of your snowman and ensure that he/she keeps watch over your street for as long as possible.
Three large snowballs atop one another do not a snowman make. The personal touches make the man, so to speak, and add character to your snowman. These simply flourishes can be the difference between a simple pile of snow in your yard and the ultimate snowman guarding your piece of real estate.
Give your snowman a face – eyes, nose and a mouth are the standard features. You can accomplish this by searching around the house for items – fruits and vegetables, cookies, candy rocks or just about anything else that can take on the shape of these features will work. A little imagination is all it takes.
You can take things to the next level by mixing water and food coloring in a spray bottle and painting a face on your snowman. Details like rosy cheeks, colored eyes and teeth can be accomplished with this tactic. Give your snowman some hair by using grass or adding a wig to his head. If you want your creation to have arms, small branches or sticks are tried-and-true, and can actually add some personality to your snowman.
Clothing and props give your snowman more personality. You can add the fabled top hat, scarf and corn cob pipe, or you can dress your snowman in outdated clothes from your closet, put boots on its “feet” or break out an old Halloween costume (snow-SpiderMan, anyone?). A broom, cheap fishing pole or other fun prop will set your snowman apart from all the others on the block.
A snowman is the classic winter creation, but it’s also the simplest form you can make. If enough snow is available, consider making a snow-family, with a snowman father, snow-woman mother and a couple of smaller, two-snowball-high snow-children. Add a snow-dog, or forego the snow-people altogether and build snow-animals or a snow-car for the kids to play in – the creations are only limited by your imagination.
The snowman is an archetypal image that has been a yearly tradition for hundreds of years. In his book, The History of the Snowman, Bob Eckstein, relays the earliest documentation of a snowman he found to be an illustration in the Book of Hours, from 1380, found in Koninklijke Bibliotheek, in The Hague.
In 2008, Bethel, Maine, became home to the world’s largest snowman, which was actually a snow-woman that stood 122 feet and 1 inch tall and required 13,000,000 pounds of snow. The creation was named for Olympia Snowe, the U.S. senator representing that state, according to the local Fox News affiliate.
Featured photo courtesy of Micky via Wikimedia
Other photos courtesy of:
Thomas Cook via Wikimedia
geography.org.uk via Wikimedia
Magnus Hagdorn via Wikimedia
Vegas Bleeds Neon via Wikimedia