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Photograph of a classic-style snowman in scarf and hat with pipe and carrot nose, in Winona Lake, Indiana, USA
A classic three-ball snowman in Winona Lake, Indiana, USA

A snowman is an anthropomorphic snow sculpture often built by children in regions with sufficient snowfall. In many places, typical snowmen consist of three large snowballs of different sizes with some additional accoutrements for facial and other features. Due to the sculptability of snow, there is also a wide variety of other styles. Common accessories include branches for arms and a rudimentary smiley face, with a carrot standing in for a nose. Human clothing, such as a hat or scarf, may be included. Low-cost and availability are the common issues, since snowmen are usually abandoned to the elements once completed.


Snow becomes suitable for packing when it approaches its melting point and becomes moist and compact. Making a snowman of powdered snow is difficult since it will not stick to itself, and if the temperature of packing snow drops, it will form an unusable denser form of powdered snow called crust. Thus, a good time to build a snowman may be the next warm afternoon directly following a snowfall with a sufficient amount of snow. Using more compact snow allows for the construction of a large snowball by simply rolling it until it grows to the desired size. If the snowball reaches the bottom of the grass it may pick up traces of grass, gravel or dirt.

In Europe and North America, snowmen are built with three spheres depicting the head, torso, and lower body. The usual practice is to then decorate and optionally dress the snowman. Sticks can be used for arms, and a face is traditionally made with stones or coal for eyes and a carrot for a nose. Some like to dress their snowmen in clothing such as a scarf or hat, while others prefer not to risk leaving supplies out doors where they could easily be stolen or become stuck under melting ice.

There are variations to these standard forms; for instance, the popular song "Frosty the Snowman" describes a snowman being decorated with a corncob pipe, button nose, coal eyes and an old silk hat (usually depicted as a top hat). These other types range from snow columns to elaborate snow sculptures similar to ice sculptures.

One book describes classic snowman attachments as a black felt top hat, red scarf, coal eye pieces, carrot nose, and corn cob pipe.[1]


Salt print photograph of a man and woman building a snow man, circa 1853
The earliest known photograph of a snowman, c.1853

Documentation of the first snowman is unclear. However, Bob Eckstein, author of The History of the Snowman documented snowmen from medieval times, by researching artistic depictions in European museums, art galleries, and libraries. The earliest documentation he found was a marginal illustration from a work titled Book of Hours from 1380, found in Koninklijke Bibliotheek, in The Hague.[2] The earliest known photograph of a snowman was taken in 1853 by Welsh photographer Mary Dillwyn, the original of which is in the collections of the National Library of Wales.[3]

In media[edit]

Illustration of children surrounding a snowman in an outdoor winter scene
In this illustration from 1867, a snowman is surrounded by children

Snowmen are a popular theme for Christmas and winter decorations and also in children's media. A famous snowman character is Frosty, the titular snowman in the popular children's song "Frosty the Snowman" (later adapted into film and television specials), who was magically brought to life by the old silk hat used on his head. In addition to numerous related music and other media for Frosty, snow-men also feature as:

Giant snowmen and records[edit]

Photograph of a giant snowman with conical base in South Nutfield, Surrey, England
Larger style of snowman with conical base. The angle of repose of a piled substance may be an aspect of snowman building at this size, depending on the properties of the snow and the method of construction.

In 2015, a man from the U.S. State of Wisconsin was noted for making a large snowman 22 feet tall and with a base 12 feet wide.[5]

The record for the world's largest snowman was set in 2008 in Bethel, Maine. The snow-woman stood 122 feet 1 inch (37.21 m) in height, and was named in honor of Olympia Snowe, a U.S. Senator representing the state of Maine.[6][7]

The previous record was also a snowman built in Bethel, Maine, in February 1999. The snowman was named "Angus, King of the Mountain" in honor of the then current governor of Maine, Angus King. It was 113 feet 7 inches (34.62 m) tall and weighed over 9,000,000 pounds (4,080,000 kg).[8]

A large snowman known as "Snowzilla" has been built each winter in Anchorage, Alaska.

In December 2016 the smallest snowman of sorts was created in a nano-fabrication facility at University of Western Ontario.[9] It consisted of three roughly 0,9 micron spheres of silica, platinum arms and nose, and a face made by an ion beam.[9]

In Unicode[edit]

In Unicode, the symbol for « snow man » is U+2603 ().

Also, « snowman without snow » is U+26C4 ().

Snowman themed items[edit]

Snowmen can also be a theme for toys, costumes, and decorations.

One common time for Snowman themed decorations is during the winter holiday and Christmas season, where it is celebrated.[10] One craft book suggested a plan making a small Snowman doll out of white glove, ribbon, and other craft supplies.[10]

One book on snowmen, which included instructions on working with real snow, also mentions snowman themed sweets and confections.[11] Some options for snowman themed dessert items include ice cream, marshmallows, and macaroons.[11]


"Snowman craters" on the asteroid 4 Vesta by the Dawn space probe, 2011.

In addition to snowmen, there other things can produced with similar materials. Typical variations on the snowman concept include using raw-materials other then snow, or using similar materials but a new meme. See Snow sculpture.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Armstrong, Nancy; McCauley, Adam (2002-01-01). Snowman in a Box: Everything You Need to Build Classic and Cool Snow Creations Just Add Snow Even Works in Sand!. Running Press Book Publishers. ISBN 9780762413522. 
  2. ^ Eckstein, Bob (2008-12-02). "My Search for The First Snowman". The History of the Snowman. Open Salon. Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  3. ^ Hawken, Abe (December 23, 2016). "First EVER snowman picture is uncovered 150 years after it was taken by pioneering woman photographer". Daily Mail. Retrieved December 23, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Review: Do you want to build a snowman?". 13 February 2014. 
  5. ^ "Wisconsin man builds giant Olaf snowman". 21 February 2015. 
  6. ^ "Topping 122 Feet, Snowman in Maine Vies for World Record". Fox News (Associated Press). 1 March 2008. Retrieved 8 January 2016. 
  7. ^ "Tallest snowman". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 8 January 2016. 
  8. ^ "Angus, King of the Mountain — World's Largest Snowman". Sunday River On-Line. February 19, 1999. Archived from the original on 2007-10-12. 
  9. ^ a b "Researcher created the world's smallest snowman". 23 December 2016. 
  10. ^ a b Ross, Kathy (2002-01-01). The Best Christmas Crafts Ever!. Millbrook Press. ISBN 9780761316886. 
  11. ^ a b Cole, Peter; Frankeny, Frankie; Jonath, Leslie (1999-09-01). Snowmen: Creatures, Crafts, and Other Winter Projects. Chronicle Books. ISBN 9780811825542. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]