How to Build the Best Snowman in the Neighborhood

by Brett & Kate McKay on December 21, 2010 · 24 comments

in Just For Fun, Manly Skills

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Unless you grew up in Fiji, you probably already know the basics of snowman building. But today we’ll finish our series on awesome snow play skills by sharing the secrets to building a bigger, better, faster, stronger snowman. Okay, maybe not faster; Frosty’s still not going anywhere. But these tips can help you or your kids create the best snowman in the neighborhood.

Start with good snow. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear and you can’t make a good snowman from powdery snow. You need the slightly wet stuff. Not slush mind you, but the kind of snow you get when it’s just above or just below freezing. Slightly wet snow packs easier and holds onto buttons and coal lumps better. If the snow you have to work with is too dry, you can help nature along by spraying it with a hose fit with a nozzle that produces a fine mist. You’re also going to need about 4 inches of snow on the ground to avoid hitting dirt and creating a mudman.

Tragically, this snowman ate all three children seconds after this photo was taken.

Make the balls. Start with a big snowball you pack in your hand and then roll it on the ground, allowing it to pick up snow and get bigger. Remember to roll it in different directions so that you don’t wind up with a cylinder instead of a nice sphere. Keep the ball from making contact with the snowless ground and from picking up dirt and twigs and such.

The bottom ball is the biggest. Place it where you want the snowman to reside; if you can see it from inside the house, all the better. Try to pick a place that’s shaded and not in direct sunlight. This will help increase the snowman’s longevity.

Stack the balls. Jim Sysko, an expert snowman builder who helped work on the largest snowman in the world, recommends that you flatten the top of the first ball. Then when you make the middle segment ball, flatten the bottom of that ball before you place it on the first ball. Flat on flat=more stability. Repeat this process so that the top of the middle ball and the bottom of the top ball are flat too.

If you’re building a gigantic snowman and find that you cannot lift the middle or top ball to be placed, get a plank and roll the ball up it.

Once you have all the balls stacked on top of one another, pack snow in-between the segments to add further stability to the structure.

Spruce up your snowman. Once you build the snowman’s basic structure, your next task is to bring Old Frosty to life. An old silk hat is key in this, although it stands a good chance of blowing away. A carrot for the nose and coal (although who can find coal these days? Little rocks work almost as well) and buttons for the eyes and mouth are classic add-ons. Just get creative and see what you have in the backyard and the kitchen. Prunes work well for the eyes and provide a snack for the birds. Place some sticks in the side for arms.

Sysko recommends having the face face away from the sun, to prevent your snowman’s premature blindness.

If placing Frosty in the deep freeze, be sure to tell the wife.

In lieu of physical add-ons, consider painting your snowman with a mixture of food coloring and water. You can paint on a smile or traumatize your children by adding some tears as Frosty starts to melt. Or if you really want to traumatize the kids, you can give your snowman a bleeding bullet wound or head injury. For more morbid ideas, we turn to our good friend Calvin:

Got any more tips for building a great snowman? Share them with us in the comments!

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tom Meitner December 21, 2010 at 10:31 am

When I saw the headline, I immediately thought of Calvin. Thank you for including him. I wish I didn’t live at an apartment complex, otherwise I would be outside right now building one. Oh well.

2 Tia December 21, 2010 at 10:42 am

Add those little, round, red & white peppermints for cheeks. The pink will leak out into the snow and give your snowman rosey cheeks.

3 John December 21, 2010 at 11:03 am

Ditto the Calvin approval. Nobody did snowmen like that kid.

By the way, growing up on a farm, and having access to tractors with hydraulic front-end loaders, was never a bad thing when making snowmen as kids. We made some that were 15 feet tall and didn’t melt comletely until May.

4 John December 21, 2010 at 11:32 am

You forgot to mention giving your snowman a pipe. Every snowman needs a pipe to smoke when just standing around outside.

5 JonathanL December 21, 2010 at 2:36 pm

I’m hoping it’s still warm enough (20s) to take my little guy outside to try to put one together today after work. It’s going to be pretty cold in Iowa this weekend.

6 james December 21, 2010 at 3:45 pm

I had to chuckle at the suicide snowman. There’s a little black humour in all of us.

7 Carter December 21, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Those Calvin and Hobbes cartoons are the best. I had to imagine what it would be like to build snowmen through Calvin because we never got much snow here in Memphis.

8 Jared December 21, 2010 at 4:06 pm

You don’t have to limit yourself to snowpeople. My dad and I used to make animals. We’ve had several ducks and a baby elephant or two over the years.

9 Fred December 21, 2010 at 6:03 pm

One day when I was a kid, our neighbor came over and rustled up my sister and me to build a snow man. As it turned out, we built a bust of Abraham Lincoln on a pedastal (like you would see on statuette). It ended up being about 8 feet tall. We sprayed it with water to turn it to ice and last longer. It was really cool. Over break, I want to make with my kids one of the Easter Island men on the same scale- THAT would be cool.

10 Ryan Waggoner December 21, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Ah, the things I miss living in California. The weather here is great, but I do miss snow :(

11 John December 21, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Fred, you’ve given me an idea that I may just have to do now. Also, wondered if it was structurally possible to build what I guess you would call “snowhenge”

12 clandis December 21, 2010 at 9:34 pm

I built one of a swimmer last year…. you can make a good body column if you pack snow into the joints between the balls and shave it smooth with your hands. it actually looked like a person (at least more so than the average snow man… see link below)

13 clandis December 21, 2010 at 9:38 pm
14 Heather December 21, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Awesome. this post reminded me of this picture.

Also: I couldn’t stop laughing at the 1st picture’s caption.

15 Darrin December 21, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Nice. I have a laid-back week in Minnesota coming up, and I’m hoping for snowball-snow so I can make one of these bad boys again!

16 DMD December 21, 2010 at 11:27 pm

One blustery Easter in Pittsburgh, the fam and I made snow Easter bunnies, complete with bunny ears and Easter egg food coloring. Much fun.

17 Joe December 22, 2010 at 1:29 am

Who can find coal nowadays? Actually, I have several tons of it in my basement right now. It may not be the epitome of political correctness, but it is quite the manly heating fuel. And I can always donate a few pieces to dress up the neighbor’s kids’ creations.

Speaking of dressed up, and old scarf makes a nice snowman accessory.

18 David December 22, 2010 at 5:14 pm

May I suggest for better stability on stacking up the snowman parts: instead of making the top of ther first ball flat make it curve in like a bowl then put the second ball and add snow on the side tfor reinforcement. Do the same thing with the second and third ball.
It might also be easier to have a snowman with just one big fat tummy and a head.

Hope I get seriuous snow here in the Pyrenes to make out for this advice.

19 Tim December 23, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Good advice about the wooden ramp. In the event that you can’t find a sturdy board to aid construction, (and have enough snow and time), increasingly larger inclined snow planes can also be built to assist in raising body segments.

20 Frank Zweegers December 24, 2010 at 9:52 am

Nice pictures and photos. Thanks for sharing.

21 Eric Medemar January 6, 2011 at 11:00 pm

That tip about flattening out the middle ball would have been wonderful to know in the 4th grade when I was hospitalized from a snowman accident

22 Phil January 7, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Mix in a generous amount of sawdust and that sucker will last even longer than normal when the spring thaw comes along.

23 sean January 17, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Living in South Carolina we don’t get the chance to build that many snowmen, but thanks to a recent bout of stormy weather of the winter variety there was an invasion of snowmen across the state.

24 Helen March 1, 2014 at 7:51 am

I found this while doing research on snowmen. Great read! I am passing along the link and I hope others find your blog and it’s great content.


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