|How does a snow making machine work? — IB, Blue Ash, OH
A snow-making machine simply sprays a fine mist of water high into the cold air overhead, so that that mist can freeze into tiny particles of ice before falling back to the ground. If the air is cold enough, the mist will solidify before it hits the ground and before it has time to evaporate into water vapor. This freezing process isn't as simple as it sounds because water can't turn into an ice crystal without a seed on which that crystal can grow. Forming a seed crystal is a random process in which a couple of water molecules accidentally arrange themselves in a crystalline lattice. In snow making, each water droplet has only a few seconds in which to freeze and it can easily take that long for a seed crystal to form. However, people have found that adding certain chemicals or other materials to the water before spraying it into the air can speed the formation of seed crystals and dramatically increase the fraction of water that becomes artificial snow.