How to build the perfect snowman

By John Hayes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Anybody could stack big snowballs in their front yard and put a face of coal on the top ball.

But why stop there when you could create a snowman that projects your personality and winter disposition? Here's how, in 10 easy steps.

1. Snow that is light and dusty or crusty and partially melted doesn't pack well. Wait for at least a couple of inches of "packing snow" -- neither too wet nor too dry -- that easily sticks together when you pack it into a snowball.

2. Roll the snowball between your palms, adding more snow as you pack and roll until the snowball is too big to hold.

3. Place the snowball on snow-covered ground and roll it away from you. As snow gathers and the ball grows in size, pack and smooth it with your gloved hand. To avoid rolling it into a cylinder, alter the direction of the roll and smooth it into a sphere.

4. Roll the first ball until it's about knee-high to suggest the rotund bottom of the snowman's body.

5. Repeat the process, stopping when the second ball -- the torso -- is about two-thirds the size of the bottom ball. Do it again -- two-thirds the size of the middle ball -- to make the head.

6. Some experienced creators of snow structures use the "rebar" method to build a more sturdy snowman. Find a stick or rod that's about an inch thick and a foot long. Push the stick 5 or 6 inches into the top of the bottom ball, then press the middle ball downward onto the stick. Put another stick of rebar between the torso and head. Avoid using sticks that are too thick or long -- they'll split the snowballs.

7. Pack snow between the snowballs to help them to stick together.

8. The traditional snowman face is made by pressing coal or small rocks into the head for eyes and a big smile; a carrot makes the nose. But your snowman can make any expression you like by making the face of fabric, buttons, fruits, vegetables or pieces of plastic, wood or metal. Whatever you're feeling, say it through your snowman.

9. Sticks make the traditional arms, but why stop there? Be creative and invent your own arms and hands.

10. Accessorize. There are no rules about snowman hats, but the traditional top hat easily blows away in the wind. Your snowman might wear cool shades to cut down the glare, or a scarf to keep the chill out (make the scarf appear to be windblown with an outstretched wire coat hanger). With a coat around the torso, your snowman could be doing anything with his arms. Boots or shoes complete the ensemble.

Why stop with one snowman? Position two or more to make eye-catching front-yard tableaux: snowmen holding hands, hunting, playing football or pointing to a creative snow sculpture.

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