Snow Rollers & Snow Donuts

I had been aware of the Snow Rollers used before snow plowing. They were large wooden barrels designed to be pulled with a team of horses or oxen.

I was told that a vintage roller could be seen  
                                    off Summer St., Seaview,  in a back yard of an                                                    old farm house for years. c. 1940’s.

Snow wasn’t removed from the roads but simply packed down to be walked on or ridden over by horse or horse & wagon.

Another kind of Snow Roller.
My wife & I, along with our two boys, were in for a huge surprise.
After a visit to a friend’s lodge in Stowe, Vermont, and a long weekend of skiing, eating & indulging, we were  returning home on Rte.  100 southbound  through Waterbury.  A long high hill came into view and was full of lumps.  These lumps looked like donuts or jelly-rolls made from snow.  Both my wife and I were dumbfounded.  Never in our lives had we seen such a display of this mystery in the snow.  Well our oldest son pipes up and said “Dad, they are snow rollers!”  Huh?  “Ya, Dad, I saw a photo on the Lodge wall, and I was told about them. The snow has to be just right and a steady amount of wind blows a ball downhill  collecting more snow.”

My 35 mm camera was out of film, but I had a  B&W camera for emergency’s. I used up the 12 photos fast and as best I could from my lane that now was collecting traffic. I just couldn’t understand how the wind could ever get under the snow and lift it into a windblown donut .

‘A snow roller is a rare meteorological phenomenon in which cylindrical snowballs are formed naturally.  Chunks of snow roll downhill or are blown along the ground by wind, picking up more snow along the way,  much the same way that the large snowballs used in snowmen are made. They can be as small as a tennis ball, but they can also be bigger than a car.’

Both the above & below photos show the rollers had almost jumped the snow bank into Rte 100, Waterbury, Vt. c. late 70’s.

This was a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience, a sight that we will never forget.

Snow rollers are also known as “snow bales,” “wind snowballs” or “snow donuts.”
W. Ray Freden, Seaview/ Marshfield, 70 years. Down East Maine 18 years.



8 Replies to “Snow Rollers & Snow Donuts”

  1. So interesting. I had never heard of this before. The historical museum of Westford, Ma. Is restoring a snow roller that had been stored in an old barn for years to be displayed when it’s finished.

Leave a Reply