Block of the Week: Powder Snow

Fight the powder!

Exploring Minecraft’s colder biomes is a dangerous business. There’s not much to eat, you’ve got to fend off attacks from vicious strays, and sliding across a patch of ice into chilly water can really wreck your day. But there’s one especially dangerous block that you’ll want to watch out for. 

Powder snow is a pretty new addition to Minecraft – it was added to the game in the first part of the Caves & Cliffs update, and it’ll be showing up in-world when the second part of the update is released in late 2021. We couldn’t wait until then, we’re too excited. So today it’s our block of the week.

Powder snow looks like a solid block, but it’s very much not. Most mobs (including players)  will fall straight through it, as well as being slowed like cobwebs. But here’s the thing. When you’re caught inside a powder snow block, you or other mobs will start freezing. Your vision will be distorted, with frost fading in at the sides of the screen, and you’ll start taking damage. If you don’t escape quickly, then... well... that’s the end of your adventure.

But! You can turn this danger to your advantage by collecting powder snow and using it to make traps of your own. When the second part of the Caves & Cliffs update is released you’ll be able to collect powder snow in mountain grove and snowy slope biomes. But before that, you can collect snow in a cauldron placed in a snowy biome when it’s snowing. Use a bucket to get it out again.

Collected some? Great. Time to lay the trap. Most mobs will see the powder snow as a solid block and walk across it, falling right in, then freezing to death. Exceptions include creatures used to the cold, like snow golems, strays, polar bears, and the Wither. Oh and skeletons – they’ll freeze to death, but then turn into a stray. Watch out for those.

So how can you protect yourself from this tricky block? Well, there’s good news. You remember that smelly old suit of leather armour that you wore for a couple of days at the very start of your Minecraft world and then replaced with iron, and then diamond? Dig it out – because leather is a great insulator, and it’ll protect you from not only falling into the powder snow in the first place, but also taking damage if you do end up immersed. Nice.

In the real world, you’ve probably heard that the Inuit people have many different words for snow. In fact lots of cultures that live in snowy places do. One of those words is “pukak”, which refers to a very fine, crystalline type of powder snow that looks like salt.

Powder snow, in English, usually refers to snow that has freshly fallen and hasn’t yet been compacted by things on top of it. It varies a lot in terms of density and moisture content – it tends to be heavier in more coastal areas. But the light, dry variety is highly prized by skiers and snowboarders because they can move through it easily.

The reason they can move through it easily is that the grains aren’t very strongly stuck together, and this can be dangerous in mountainous regions after heavy snowfall. Avalanches can easily form when a large quantity of powder snow is disturbed, sweeping down a mountainside and burying everything beneath.

Minecraft doesn’t have avalanches. Yet. So you can explore its mountains in relative safety. Just don’t forget to wear your leather armour, and watch out for strays. Good luck.

Duncan Geere
Written By
Duncan Geere