Whats the difference between ice and snow?

I first saw the real snow fall when we (me, my husband and many friends) went together to black forest in Germany. The black forest was actually a white forest when we went! Fully covered with snow!

I got excited seeing snow fall and was jumping like a kid. Then my analytical brain got switched on! I started wondering what is the difference between ice and snow? I know they are different – they look different – they must be having different properties. But what is the basic difference and how are they formed?

I asked this question to my husband and other friends. Actually none of us knew the answer that time. But some of them were not able to say that they ‘did not know’ it. Instead they started giving possible theories. Not satisfied with any of those, I ultimately got pissed off and we even ended up in a fight. I was not mature enough to leave it at that (as one of our friends later pointed out to me!) . I wanted to prove them they were wrong! A normal conversation about a simple subject ended up in a serious fight. We were almost on the verge of spoiling the entire trip. Anyways.. that’s another story!

That incident drove me crazy and I wanted to prove to those people that they were wrong (immature me! ). Also of course, I really wanted to know what is the difference.

So I searched the net right after the trip to find out whats the difference between ice and snow. Also, I did not forget to mail that to everyone who came to the trip! 😛

“Ice is formed by freezing water whereas snow is formed when atmospheric water vapor freezes under really cold temperatures. Also, they have some basic difference in their structure because of which snow appears white. The molecular structure of snow makes it reflect all colors and hence it appears white. Whereas ice absorbs some color rays and hence it is translucent.”

There are much more technical differences but I got satisfied with this answer! 😉 If you want to know more, go here:
Times of India article
National Snow and Ice Data Center F. A. Q.
HowStuffWorks article about snow

I think it is always better to admit that ‘I don’t know something’ and learn about it rather than giving some ‘possible’ theories of our own. It is of course good to improve our creativity, but still I think we should not be mis-guiding someone because of our creativity!! (I still haven’t got that maturity! 😛 )



  1. Hey! Thanks for the info. There is a discussion among our friends and one of them asked me what is the difference betweeen ice and snow.I couldn’t tell them, bcoz i don’t know the answer.So i started searching net and i found ur info helpful.

    1. Welcome! 🙂

      Hope you enjoyed the discussion unlike us who ended up in a fight! 😉

  2. Hey ,

    That was nice explanation. I had same argument today and I used your source to support i was right.

    Thanks for authentic sources posted at end of your post which gave credibility
    Looking for more post from you.

    1. Nice to know!
      Thanks! 🙂

  3. coffeebeans76 · · Reply

    This is very interesting Arthy which points to another interesting fact – we get so much used to our surroundings that such interesting marvels get to be ignored.

    Switch on more of your analytical brain 🙂 :)!!!

  4. Thank u for elaboration. I had the same problem and no one ever provided a satifying explaination to me. Tchao

  5. Looks like you had a close encounter with “Male Answer Syndrome.” This syndrome is found only in males who are incapable of admitting they instead propose their own endless theories.

    Fortunately, I suffered enough with my father’s male answer syndrome through my childhood that I forced myself not to succomb to it myself. I am proud to be in the minority of males who, when asked a question of which I don’t know the answer, I say “I don’t know, go use google.”

    Thank you for the article, I was wondering why ice and snow are different substances considering they are both 100% frozen water.

    1. “Male Answer Syndrome” ? haha! Nice way of putting it and yea, that’s exactly what I encountered with! 😉
      Thanks for your comment..

  6. Habtom T.Gebremedhin · · Reply

    I was curious to identify between ice & snow,and I got exellent answer here.Thank you Dear Arthy so much!
    Again,I learned that those which seem silly questions could have awesome answers & applications.

    1. Hi Habtom! Thanks for leaving your comment.. Im glad you found the post useful!
      In my opinion, no question is silly! Asking questions is the only way to learn things around us! 😉

  7. thanks this really helped me with my homework

  8. fernan · · Reply

    thanks for information
    it helps me to answer the quetion
    of my co students

  9. thanks for the information,i like your way of describing,u r really good narrator,god bless you.

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