How to Make Real Snow

Mother Nature Not Cooperating? Make Snow Using a Pressure Washer

Got a garden hose or pressure washer with a spray mister? If the temperature is cold enough, you can make snow yourself!
Got a garden hose or pressure washer with a spray mister? If the temperature is cold enough, you can make snow yourself. imagenavi / Getty Images

If you want 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 except without the need for clouds.

What You Need to Make Snow

You need the same things found in nature: water and a 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 snow at least a few days out of the year.

About the Pressure Nozzle for Making Snow

You have several options here:

  • Pressure washer (own or rent, use a fine mist nozzle or else use a nozzle specially designed for producing snow)
  • Snow cannon (not affordable to buy, but can be rented)
  • Garden hose with a snow attachment (make 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 reason is that the "mist" particles may not be small enough or far enough apart to turn water into ice.

How to Make Snow

Basically, all you need to do is spray a fine mist of water into the air so that it cools down enough to freeze into water ice or snow.

There's a technique to this.

  • You'll get much better results if you point your water spray upward at a 45° 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. 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 actually 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 only need 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. Have fun!

Make Snow Using 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 only works reliably 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.

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.

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.

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Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "How to Make Real Snow." ThoughtCo, Dec. 29, 2017, thoughtco.com/make-real-snow-yourself-609165. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2017, December 29). How to Make Real Snow. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/make-real-snow-yourself-609165 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "How to Make Real Snow." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/make-real-snow-yourself-609165 (accessed February 17, 2018).