How to build a snowman: Tips from the pros |

How to build a snowman: Tips from the pros

The Cook family builds a snowman together on a spring-like day in Silverthorne on Sunday, Feb. 2.
Liz Copan /

Spring in Summit County is the best time to build a snowman. While the ski resorts clamor for fluffy Champagne powder in the winter, that dry snow isn’t heavy enough to form an entire snowman, let alone have a decent snowball fight. When moisture content increases in the spring, however, the snow becomes perfect for shaping.

“With the sun out, anywhere from 43-45 degrees is malleable temperature,” professional snow sculptor Rick Seeley said. The Breckenridge local has participated in the International Snow Sculpture Championships for 17 years in addition to occasionally constructing Keystone Resort’s snow fort.

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This story previously published in the Spring 2020 edition of Explore Summit magazine.

“You can still make a decent snowman up to 50 degrees, but then you’re going to have more slush balls than snowballs at the point,” he said.

To make a snowman, first find a flat spot in the shade that will be its home. Then roll a ball along the ground to make the large, bottom section. Repeat the process until the slightly smaller middle is formed and place it on the base. You may need to flatten a side of each piece to make them stick together better. Finally, scoop up a ball of snow for the head and stick it on top.

Alternatively, you can pile the snow in a large mound and carve out the snowman rather than rolling balls on the ground. One object that can help is a 55-gallon trash can. Fill the can with snow, stomp it down to pack it into place and then flip the can upside down. You can then use garden trowels, shovels and other tools to make the three spheres on top of one another.

“Or you can make it look like a Minion or one of the ghosts from Pac-Man,” Seeley said. “It’s up to your imagination from there.”

That same trash can is also good to use if the snow happens to be too powdery. Seeley recommends slowly adding one gallon of water to the 55-gallon bin to create a concrete-like slurry that’s more moldable.

Other tools that can help shape your design are cheese graters, 60-grit waterproof sandpaper, dish or bathroom scrubbers and drywall knives.

The Cook family builds a snowman together on a spring-like day in Silverthorne on Sunday, Feb. 2.
Liz Copan /

“Most of the things we use for smoothing and shaping are items that you can find in the utensil drawer or the hardware department.” Seeley said.

Once done, there are limitless ways to decorate the snowman. Sure, the button eyes and carrot nose are classic, but you don’t have to be stuck in a rut. Seeley recommends experimenting with tennis balls, hockey pucks, sticks and twigs.

Want to add some color? Put food coloring in a spray bottle or squirt gun and spray it directly onto the finished product to paint it, draw a design or write a name. Seeley also suggests placing powdered tempera paint into an etched groove on the snowman. Or try colored marshmallows for the eyes or mouth.

For clothing, look for old or worn items that are beyond repair and can’t be donated to those in need.

“Living up here in Summit County, we all have one glove that’s missing its partner,” Seeley said. “Or we have a hat that’s stretched out or has a hole in it.”

The Cook family builds a snowman together on a spring-like day in Silverthorne on Sunday, Feb. 2.
Liz Copan /

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