How to Make Real Snow at Home

Mother Nature Not Cooperating? Make Snow With a Pressure Washer

Snow making equipment and a spray of snow

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If you want to see or play in snow, but Mother Nature won't cooperate, you can take matters into your own hands and make snow yourself. This is the homemade version of real water ice snow, just like the snow that falls from the sky.

What You Need

You need the same things found in nature: water and cold temperature. You turn the water into snow by dispersing it into particles small enough to freeze in the cold air.

  • Water
  • Pressure nozzle

There is a handy snowmaking weather tool that will tell you whether you have the proper conditions for making snow. In some climates, the only way you'll be able to make snow is if you chill a room indoors (or you can make fake snow), but much of the world can make real snow at least a few days out of the year.

Pressure Nozzle

You have several options:

  • Pressure washer (own or rent, use a fine mist nozzle or use a nozzle specially designed for producing snow)
  • Snow cannon (not affordable to buy, but can be rented)
  • Garden hose with a snow attachment (makes less snow per hour than the pressure washer or snow cannon, but still fun)

Note: Simply using a mister attached to a garden hose isn't likely to work unless the temperature is very cold. The "mist" particles may not be small enough or far enough apart to turn water into ice.

Fine Mist

All you need to do is spray a fine mist of water into the air so it cools down enough to freeze into water ice or snow. There's a technique to this.

Spray at Angle 

You'll get much better results if you point your water spray upward at a 45-degree angle rather than straight up. The amount of air you get mixed in with the water makes a difference, so you want to maximize this.

Water Cold as Possible

You also want the water to be as cold as possible, so water from a cold stream will work better than, say, heated water from your home.

Impurities Are Good

The water from a stream or river also has the advantage of containing impurities which can act as nucleation sites to provide a surface on which snow crystals can grow.

Add a 'Nucleating Agent'

It's also possible to add what is called a 'nucleating agent' to your water which will accomplish the same purpose, essentially allowing you to produce snow at slightly warmer temperatures.

The nucleating agent typically is a non-toxic polymer. Snow machines for ski resorts can use this effect to make snow even if the temperature is above freezing. If your water supply naturally contains a bit of sand, this can help you make snow at slightly warmer temperatures than if you were using pure water.

You need only a few hours of cold to make a lot of snow. The snow will last longer if the temperature stays cold, but it will take a while to melt even if it warms up.

Use Boiling Water

If the temperature outdoors is extremely cold, it's actually easier to make snow using boiling hot water than cold water. This technique works reliably only if the temperature is at least 25 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (below -32 °C). To do this, throw a pan of freshly boiled water into the air.

Easy and Spectacular

It seems counter-intuitive that boiling water would readily turn to snow. How does it work? Boiling water has a high vapor pressure. The water is very close to making the transition between a liquid and a gas. Throwing the boiling water into the air offers the molecules a lot of surface area exposed to freezing temperatures. The transition is easy and spectacular.

Protect Hands and Face

While it's likely anyone performing this process would be bundled up against the extreme cold, take care to protect your hands and face from the boiling water. Sloshing a pan of boiling water onto skin by accident can cause a burn. The cold weather numbs skin, so there's an increased risk of getting a burn and not noticing it right away. Similarly, at such a cold temperature, there is a significant risk of frostbite to exposed skin.