Sugar/TG snow is old snow. It has fallen early in the fall and has been heated from the sun or from the heat of the ground below. The fingers of the snowflakes donít exist in this type of snow, like a tiny ice-cube. This can also happen when the snow is freezing rain and it is frozen before it lands. The drifting snow of the prairies and high altitudes can also be rolled enough that they become tiny little beads of ice. These beads of ice can become fairly large. We have built in these conditions when the ice crystals were about 1/16 to 1/8 inch diameter. It is hard to be gentle enough to build with this snow but it can be done. Packing gently is the key.
This sugar snow is very difficult to use but it makes the strongest igloo once it freezes. These igloos will last until spring if built correctly on a good foundation. If the snow runs through any cracks try throwing in snow chunks to plug them or hold your arm against the crack to stop it.
Powder snow still has fingers on the snowflakes. These fingers and facets help lock the snow together so handling the form is not so critical. Igloos made of powder can last until spring if built correctly and the snow is gathered with the sweeping technique covered below. Powder layers are sometimes thin and laid over a layer of sugar snow. When these two layers are mixed together, the mixture is a little harder to use than the powder alone, depending on the mix ratio.
After the coldest parts of winter the snow will begin to be warmer and pack easier. You can throw the snow into the form as hard as you want and it will not break the block. The floor is also harder and the stake will not move. This is the easiest type of snow to build with. If the spring slush freezes and you break it up and use it, it will be sugar snow. More ice layers will be present and you will some times encounter surface slush with frozen powder below. If you can, build in some shade where the slush layer isnít present. Very cold snow that has been melted by the sun can freeze to the form. Try to mix the slush with the cold layer so it freezes before you put it into the form.
Sweeping the snow
Keep the area you are gathering snow from smooth by sweeping the snow. The sweeping action keeps the area smooth and easy to work with.If you dig the snow out, the area will be choppy and rough.
Sweep off a layer of snow over to the spot where it will be picked up and put into the form. The snow crystals heat up through the friction created in the moving snow. The snow is consolidated when the air is removed like this. This is helpful when you are building with sugar snow. We have found that it is best if the snow is placed in the form within 15 seconds after gathering. If your blocks are still breaking, work the snow more and be careful not to jar the form in any way while building the block.
If you encounter a layer of ice, sweep the snow off in this fashion and then swat it. The ice cubes that are created like this can be swept up along with some of the snow layer below.
Some spring slush packs too easily and any handling of the snow will turn it into a chunk. In these heavy spring slush conditions you are better off digging the snow and the packer can break it up as he packs it.