Is it Safe to Eat Snow?

AC Shilton

Feb 6, 2019

Taking in a mouthful of snow as you yard-sale down a double black diamond is one way to eat it. But more purposeful approaches are popular, too, like turning it into a base for ice cream, eating mouthfuls of it for hydration, or using it to chill a cocktail. Still, most of us wouldn’t drink rainwater without running it through a filtration system. So is there anything different about snow?

Before bellying up to the snow buffet, you need to know a few things about its safety.

Snow’s pristine looks can be deceiving. Most of us have heard of acid rain, but we talk less about acid snow. Because of how snow is formed, it should, in theory, be cleaner than rain, says Fengjing Liu, a hydrologist and biogeochemist at Michigan Tech. “During the formation of ice crystals, few impurities fit into the crystal,” he says, adding that the process of water being supercooled by low temperatures can almost act as a filtration system, pushing impurities out.

But then there’s that whole falling-to-earth problem. “In some studies, snow appears to maybe even be a better collector of heavy metals and other pollutants in the atmosphere than rainfall, because it has a larger surface area and slower velocity,” explains Jordy Hendrikx, director of the Snow and Avalanche Laboratory at Montana State University.

Read Is it Safe to Eat Snow?, which includes a Montanya Snow Cocktail recipe!

Karen HoskinWinter 2019