Snow hacking

Apparently snow-machine technology has become so cheap that family-sized devices are now available for $525 to $2,400. The upshot is the creation of a new class of snow geeks — parents obsessed with, in snowless-but-cold winters, generating improbably huge piles of snow beside their houses for the wee ones to cavort upon. There’s a surreal little piece by Penelope Green in today’s New York Times describing the culture:

Those who make snow are proud of their powder. They speak passionately about its stacking qualities (it is denser than snow that starts out in a cloud) and bandy about terms like nucleation and wet bulb temperature. Forums like, which has over 3,700 members, show a subculture as much into the process of snowmaking as the result of it. There are discussions about how to build your own rope tow and lengthy back-and-forths about the attributes of various snow wand nozzles.

My favorite quote in the article is from one of the fathers: “When real snow falls, Mr. Young said, ‘my daughter thinks I made it.’”

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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