Taking Inventory: Snowball

To boldly go where snowman has gone before

WARNING FROM THE PUN-HATING EDITOR: This article contains a truly appalling amount of puns. Every time I tried to delete one, two more took its place. You have been warned :(

It’s starting to get a little spring-like here in beautiful Sweden, so we felt like we should get this one out the door before the heat of summer arrives. Our item of the week today is the snowball! What can I say? It’s a snow news day.

Snowballs became a part of Minecraft in alpha version 1.0.5, the same update that added snow blocks. They can be collected by hitting snow blocks or snow layers with a shovel, or by destroying snow golems. Snow far, snow good.

Stick four snowballs in a crafting grid and you’ll get a snow block. But here’s a fun fact: in an early version of Minecraft, breaking a snow block would get you four-to-six snowballs, meaning that you could make an infinite number of snowballs. That one got patched fairly quickly. A little snowledge is a dangerous thing.

Let’s be honest though, the main reason to collect snowballs in Minecraft isn’t to craft snow blocks – it’s to hurl them at friends and foes alike. Right-clicking with a snowball in your hand will fling it in the direction that you’re pointing, just like an egg. Snowballs deal no damage, with one exception. Against blazes, which are creatures literally made of fire, snowballs deal one and a half hearts of damage. I highly recommend shouting “ICE TO SEE YOU!” when you begin your assault.

Other uses for snowballs? Well, you can put them in a dispenser and hook up a tripwire to make a festive trap, or hurl them at end crystals to break them while fighting the Ender Dragon, which saves arrows. In some versions of the game, there are also a collection of six snowball-related achievements to earn. Did you snowtice them?

In the real world, snowballs are a little bit more complicated than those in Minecraft (and they hurt more, too). Prime snowball-making conditions are when the temperature is hovering around zero, because there’s a little liquid water in the ice that helps it stick together. When it’s too cold, the snow becomes powdery and won’t stick together. A pro tip, for those of you who don’t carry around a thermometer wherever you go, is that if the snow squeaks when you walk on it, it’s probably too cold for snowballs. Appreciate all my great advice? It’s snow problem!

Very occasionally, when the circumstances are jusssst right, snowballs can form naturally without human intervention. The wind needs to be strong enough to blow them, but not so strong that they blow away (or it needs to be on a slope so gravity can do the work). The temperature needs to be warm enough for the snow to stick together. But there also needs to be a thin layer of ice on the ground to stop the snowball freezing to the ground. If all these conditions are in place, they can get quite large! Snow some appreciation for nature.

The best thing you can do with a snowball isn’t to throw it at someone, but to roll it much larger and make it into a snowman. Everyone gets cheered up by seeing a jolly snowman on their way to work. But winter is fading – so get out there and get building. There’s snow time to lose!

Duncan Geere
Written By
Duncan Geere