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NBC 26 meteorologist Michael Fish explains what makes snow 'good' for packing

Powdery snow
Posted at 8:09 PM, Feb 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-23 21:09:47-05

Anyone who’s tried to make a snowman or gotten into a snowball fights knows the difference between “good packing snow” and “bad packing snow.”

“Good packing snow” is wet and sticks together, making it easier to form into balls or snow forts. “Bad packing snow,” like the snow from Northeast Wisconsin’s major snowfall Wednesday and Thursday morning, is light, fluffy, and doesn’t stick together, making it difficult to form anything.

But what causes snow to be “good” or “bad” for packing?

“The perfect packing snow needs to be what's called a low snow ratio,” NBC 26 meteorologist Michael Fish said. “So, you'd have what's known as a 10 to one, that would be really nice, which means for every one inch of water you get 10 inches of snow.”

Fish said snow from this latest storm only had a ratio of 15 to one or 16 to one, depending on where you live.

But what causes this “snow ratio”?

“Snow ratio has to do with a lot of things,” Fish said. “It has to do with flake type, the wind… how cold it is. Usually when you have the real cold temperatures, you have those high snow ratios where everything's really powdery. And when this snow fell, it wasn't that warm, it wasn't that cold, it was kind of medium.”

But if you’re still planning on making that epic snowman this year. . . not all hope is lost.

“The springtime is great snowball-making snow because it starts to get warmer, you start to have that lower snow ratio,” Fish said.

And one bright side: Fish said the lighter, fluffier, “bad packing snow” is easier to shovel.