Building the Perfect Snowman on Your Next Trip to Mammoth Lakes

Jul 13, 2021

Building a snowman in Mammoth Lakes is a great way to spend creative time off of the ski slopes with family and friends. The process of constructing and bringing a snowman to life is an unforgettable activity that can be shared with the young and the young at heart alike. But before bundling up and heading out into Mammoth Lakes legendary deep and seemingly endless snow, consider these steps and suggestions for building the perfect snowman. It can actually be harder than one would think!

There are 2 ways to build an awesome snowman The classical way of rolling and then stacking large balls of snow (rolling method, or method “A”) or by making a pile or mound of snow and carving out the shape of a snowman (packing method, or method “B”). No matter which means of construction is chosen, building a snowman is an incredible experience for all.

Step 1: Location, Location, Location

Finding a suitable location to create a snowman in scenic Mammoth Lakes is easy, although making a decision may be difficult. The town is literally a majestic and awe-inspiring winter playground with acres upon acres of breathtakingly beautiful open space ideal for building a snowman. The best places have flat areas with huge expanses of available snow.

Suggested locations within or immediately around the town of Mammoth Lakes include: Mammoth Creek Park (easy access on Old Mammoth Road and the park has a playground that is perfect for families with small children), Shady Rest Park (large and open ball fields protected by the wind, road from SR 203 may require four-wheel-drive during snowstorms), Twin Lakes Basin (great photography opportunities and a free bus service is provided on the orange line from the Village at Mammoth), the Mammoth Lakes Visitor Center (very easy access, friendly staff, and abundant space) or just wherever there is open land and snow! Be creative!

For assistance finding the many parks and recreation areas around town, download the Mammoth Lakes Tourism App. This incredibly useful program has directions and maps to parks and open spaces for snow play along with a wide range of additional service listings and information.

Step 2: Choose the Snow Wisely

Snow is not created equally and the success of a snowman greatly depends on the type or consistency of the available snow. The best snow for the creation of a snowman (and for snowball fights) falls around freezing temperature (32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius) and contains adequate amounts of moisture. This allows the snow to stick together, causing the “snowball effect”.

To test the snow, see if you are able to pack a snowball with your hands. Snow that is too light, which falls when it is very cold, often does not form snowballs well. If this is an issue, add liquid water with a misting spray bottle so that the snow becomes packable. Snow that is too warm often crumbles under it’s own weight. To avoid this potential problem, travel to higher elevations on warmer days.

Plowed road snow is often dirty and may contain surface treatment salts, such as magnesium or sodium chlorides. It is best to avoid using this type of snow and always be aware of traffic, especially when heavy snow removal equipment is operating nearby.

Step 3: Begin With A Simple Snowball

The birth of every snowman begins with the creation of a large, hand-built snowball. It is very important to pack this snowball very tightly so that it will not crumble or disintegrate when moving onto the following steps. This is the core of every snowman and some experimenting may be required to determine the correct amount of packing force necessary.

Step 4: Choosing A Method of Snowman Building: Rolling Vs. Packing

The rolling method, which is described in steps 5A-7A, is the traditional method of creating a snowman and seems to be the best method for when snow temperature is around 32 degrees (F.). The packing method, which is described in steps 5B-7B, eliminates picking up heavy spheres of snow and allows for increased creativity of snowman shape. Also, the packing method may work when the snow is less than ideal or is too wet for the rolling method.

Rolling Method: Roll It, Stack It, Pack It 

Roll the first snowball: Place the large snowball created in the previous step on the ground and slowly begin rolling it along from behind. With each revolution, the snowball should increase in size as it picks up snow in a pinwheel-like fashion. Make sure to change directions when rolling in order to achieve roundness and maintain strength.

Continue rolling the snowball until the desired size is reached for the snowman’s base. For an average snowman, the base (or lower) section should be around 2 to 4 feet in diameter. Leave this large sphere at the chosen snowman location, as it most likely will be too heavy to carry. For additional stability, pack some snow around the base where it contacts the ground.

Roll and place the second snowball: Start the snowball rolling process again. This time, make a snowball that is around 30% smaller than the base made in step 5A. This is the middle section, or belly, of the snowman.

Carefully place and balance the middle section on top of the larger snowball. Adult assistance or a wooden ramp may be necessary for this step. To stabilize, pack snow at the joint between the two snowballs.

Roll and place the thrid snowball: Once again follow the same process, shooting for a snowball that is about 30% smaller than the previous, or middle, snowball. This will be the uppermost addition, or head, of the snowman.

After rolling, place this snowball on the very top of the stack. Make certain that this snowball is well balanced and stable, as no one wants their snowman to loose it’s head! Again, adult assistance may be necessary for this step as these snowballs may be quite heavy. To stabilize, pack snow at the joint between the two snowballs and then smooth using hands or a shovel. If more support is needed, insert a broom handle or a long stick straight through all three snowballs. This will pin all three together. For the finishing touches, skip to step 8.

Packing Method: Stack It, Pack It, Shape It 

Start small and build the first snowball: Build a snowball by hand an dplace it in the exact location where the snowman is to be constructed. Begin packing additional snow around the snowball, building upwards and outwards at an even ratio.

Using a shovel may speed up the process and the goal is to achieve an overall rounded appearance. Like the rolling method, this will be the base of the snowman and should be the largest section. Be certain to pack the snow tightly, as it needs to be able to support the weight of the next addition.

Roll and pack the second snowball: Make another hand-built snowball and place this on top of the packed snow pile. Begin packing snow around this using hands and/or shovels, tapering it to match the width of the underlying snow mound. As the snowman is built upward, make sure to continue adding to the sides as support.

Shape: Now that the hard work is done, shape the mound of snow into a snowman using hands and/or shovels. If the snowman should be taller, repeat teh roll and pack method to add a head.

Step 8: It’s Alive!

Now it’s time to add some human-like character and personality to the snowman. Give it some pine cone eyes, a big carrot nose, a smiling mouth of gravel, and dress it up using a scarf or a wide variety of hats. Let the creativity run wild! A snowman can even be painted with water-based and ecologically friendly paint. Don’t forget the pair of sticks for arms and maybe a broom or mop. How about complimenting the snowman with a pair of skis or a snowboard?

Some Additional Snowman Building Tips:

  • Remember, little hands get cold quickly. Dress appropriately and always try to have waterproof gloves and clothing available.
  • Follow up the snowman build with a stop at one of Mammoth Lakes’ many local coffee shops to warm up with a favorite hot beverage while surrounded by friendly company.
  • Stop by the Mammoth Lakes Visitor’s Center, conveniently located on route 203 on the way into town, for additional information, advice, and suggestions. The staff is very helpful and an incredible collection of resources for the Eastern Sierra visitor and traveler are available.

A trip to the winter wonderland of Mammoth Lakes is incomplete without building a snowman together with family and friends. Take a break from the skiing and snowboarding and get actively creative. This unforgettable experience is not only for kids, but also the kid within!

Jason Abplanalp

Jason Abplanalp first discovered the Eastern Sierra lifestyle six years ago and after brief tenures in Colorado and Idaho, Jason returned to the mountain town he truly loves, Mammoth Lakes, CA. As an avid skier, mountain biker, hiker, and fisherman, Jason believes there is no better place for his family to call home. Jason has…

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