Different Types of Snow

Snow can be magical when it is falling softly to the ground but have you ever wondered how snow is formed and how many different types of snow there are?  You may be surprised to know the extent of the different kinds of snow that fall to the ground and the different influences it can have. To make these different types of snow there are some basic common elements required and these are wind, vapor and temperature.


The moisture in the making of snowflakes usually from oceans, lakes and rivers and is drawn up into the air. In the summer this moisture falls from the clouds as rain but in the winter as the temperatures began to drop usually about -10C or 14 F the vapor will attach to a dust particle which are also in the air and form a snowflake.  

These snowflakes can come in forms such as snow crystals which are usually six edged proportioned shapes that enlarge from the thick water in the air. Their sizes can differ.  A snowflake can also be a compilation of crystals that form into a light fluffy ball these can be as large as 10 cm across. This is the wet clammy type and ideal for making snowmen. Snowflakes are made up of approximately 100 snow crystals wedged together.

Then there are rime snowflakes which go through a tremendous cooling progression which are present if it is foggy. They freeze rapidly when they hit the ground and can stick to anything. Then there is soft hail which is not your typical snowflake but a loose assortment of frozen water droplets. This is also called Graupel.

Impact of snow

During the winter it is not uncommon to experience all types of snow and it all depends on the proper winds, moisture and temperature. There are snow storms where you experience heavy falls of white fluffy snow.  With this type of snow the wind can impact the outcome by causing the snow to pile into snow drifts where other areas are left naked but without the wind it gets higher and higher on the ground as it falls.

Then there are squalls where it snows but for very short periods at a time without causing much of an accumulation. The wind is also a factor with squalls as it drives the snow the way the wind is blowing and can make it very difficult to see if your outside.

Then there are blizzards which are the most dangerous of snow falls. If you are caught in a blizzard it can prove to be extremely dangerous. Blizzards have been the cause of cities losing power and people losing their lives.

The fluffy snow that usually falls during winter can be seen best at higher altitudes. The best way to define the different types of snow is look to a mountain that is used by skiers. There you will get an idea of how different snowflakes react once they hit the ground.


Skiers love powder snow especially if has not been used by anyone else. This is a soft snow that is easily moved. They consist of small tiny puffs of flakes that can take flight with the gentlest winds. It is a skiers dream to ski through and a safety net for those that take a fall. It softens the impact of any fall regardless of how fast you are going. This is the ultimate snow that is loved by skiers.


As stated above snow reacts many different ways when it hits the ground and crud is one of those ways. This is when snow gets packed down tight in some areas leaving very little room for movement. This type of snow can be powdery in one place and almost like ice in another. This is often found in the mountains where temperatures and altitudes change quickly.


Crust is when the top snow freezes while underneath stays somewhat soft. This happens when the surface of the earth warms from the rays of the sun and refreezes as the temperatures change. Sometimes even the crust can be soft and you can fall through it but given that it is frozen hard enough it will certainly bear your weight.


When snow stars to melt from warmer temperatures you get what is called slush. This can be seen quite well as winter turns to spring.  The beautiful snowflakes that you saw falling will now form into chunks of ice in some places and eventually melt away from view.

Snow can be your best friend or your worst enemy it all depends on just how heavy it is and where you are when it starts. It is fascinating to watch and very interesting to study. Every flake is different and every type of snow fall can produce different circumstances but for those that experience this wondrous process they would not have it any other way as they watch the different types of snow.