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How to build the perfect snowball

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It might be childish, but there’s still a thrill to drawing the curtain first thing in the morning and seeing the world covered in nothing but white.

Why? Snowball fights, that’s why.

The next time Old Man Winter spreads his icy fingers over your neck of the woods, call into work, forget about school -- it’s probably canceled, anyway -- grab a handful of snow and start flinging with these snowball-crafting tips.

The right ingredients

Yeah, that’d be snow.

But not just any old snow will do. Wet, slushy snow is no good, nor is the fresh powdery kind so sought-after by skiers. One’s too damp, and the other’s too dry. You need snow that’s somewhere in the middle, and you might need to move around to find it. Areas near warm places (heated buildings, streets, patios and so on) tend to hold a little more heat and moister snow -- and likewise, shady, colder, and more isolated areas tend to keep it a little icier.

A tip: find a patch that’s just a little too cold to use...and jump in it. Face up, face down, it’s up to you (although you’ll have an easier time breathing if you’re face up). Lying down in the snow for a few minutes will put your natural body heat to work, melting it just enough to help it pack together better. Plus you can work on your snow angel technique while you’re down there.

If you’re fortunate to have more than a few inches of snow, you have a couple more options. In most cases, you’ll find the best snowball-making snow way below the surface, where the sun and wind hasn’t had a chance to get to it. Don’t be afraid to dig; snow from lower down will already have been packed slightly in most circumstances, giving you a head start.

The right roll

Once you’ve found the perfect patch of snow, grab two handfuls, if possible. Bring your hands together and press gently. Too much pressure at this stage will make the snowball crumble, so go slowly. Let your hands slide round each other naturally as you squeeze. You should hear that happy crunching sound that’s characteristic of snowball formation -- if not, keep applying gentle pressure with both hands and wait for your body heat to melt the snow slightly.

Once you’re done, you should have the perfect snowball: not too hard, not too soft, round enough to fly straight, and ready to throw. Whether you prefer to sling it straight away or stack up a supply for a sustained barrage, you’ll be good to go.

The right handwear

Only the truly foolhardy embark on a snowball fight without some sort of hand protection. But should you roll with gloves or mittens? Mittens (in general) are warmer -- or to put it another way, they let less of your body heat escape to the outside. That’s good for staying cozy, but it’s not so good for snowballs -- you want some of the heat to reach the snow in order to melt it slightly and help it compact. True snow pros wear gloves made from leather or lightweight, waterproof synthetic fabrics.

The right way to stay in the game

One thing will ultimately limit your snowball-producing potential, and it’s got nothing to do with how you’re making the snowballs. Sooner or later, your hands are going to get cold, wet, and numb. Take a tip from hunters, who are often out in the elements for hours: slip a couple of chemical warming sticks (available at your local outdoorsy store) into your gloves.

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