Does Snow Have a Smell?

Does snow have a smell? Many say yes. But what does it smell like? Now, that’s a little harder to define…

By Aimee Tucker

Jan 05 2022


Does snow have a smell?

Sometime during the last decade, Yankee‘s longtime editor Mel Allen penned a short piece for our site sharing his 10 Favorite Smells of New England. It’s one of my favorite posts from the digital archives to share on the Yankee Facebook page, because it inevitably leads to a new flurry of scent suggestions.

This last time, I zeroed in on one winter smell suggestion — snow.

It got me thinking… does snow have a smell? I’d never thought about it before, but when I did, I had to agree that it does. When I close my eyes and think about being in the woods after a heavy snowfall, the laden branches low and the air still, there is an undeniable snow-y smell. But what is it? And is it really the snow I’m smelling? Hmmm.

Does snow have a smell?
Does snow have a smell? What does it smell like?

So, for the first question:

Does snow have a smell?

Many of you definitely think so. In the “Favorite Smells of New England” post comments, I saw variations of “the smell of snow” over and over:

The smell of snow in the air.
The smell of snow about to come down.
The smell of snow falling.

One reader, Lori, simply said: “Snow (yes, you can smell snow).”

Many people seem to associate the smell with “clean.”
The smell of fresh, clean air when it snows.

Then again, not everyone…
The “cold, dirty” smell of fresh snow.

So the answer is… yes?

does snow have a smell
If snow has a smell…what does it smell like?

And the second question:

What does snow smell like?

A little scientific research (remember, I’m a digital editor, and absolutely, definitely not a scientist) explained that the chemical compounds in snow are what give it any “smell” it has, but unless you’re a chemist, you’re probably not going to go there. You’re going to say it smells “clean” or “cold” or make comparisons to ozone or wood smoke.

Some people claim they can detect a change of smell in the air before it snows. You can also argue that snow smells different on the ground than it does falling from the sky, and that neither smells like the ice in your freezer ice trays.

So what does snow smell like? Darned if I know, but it definitely does.

What do you think?

This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated. 

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