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Snowmobiler Notices Strange 'Snow Rollers' And Takes Stunning Pictures

Winter's one of those things you just kind of have to deal with. But it's not without its charms. The air is refreshing and the landscape is completely transformed. And sometimes, that transformation includes some weird phenomena that could only ever happen during the winter months.

An Idaho man was enjoying the wintry weather on his snowmobile.

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He was carving up powder in Worley, Idaho — a small community at the base of the Idaho Panhandle — when he saw something pretty weird that he'd never seen before.

He shared his pics with a local news station.

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In an otherwise featureless field, the snowmobiler found this odd scene. It looks like a bunch of Swiss rolls made of snow, or dozens of snowmen that are still works in progress.

Swiss rolls or churro bites?

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There's a taco place near me that sells "churro bites" — basically chopped-up straws of delicious fried dough with your choice of sweet sauce. Throw some caramel into these weird snow rolls and I'm sold.

Snowmobile for scale.

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These snow rollers are clearly fresh because the snow hasn't had a chance to drift over and obscure their tracks. I wonder how far back their snowy, rolly tracks actually go.

The snow was weird in the Pacific Northwest that day.

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Commenters weighed in, sharing pics of similar snow phenomena in the area. Clearly the conditions have been favorable for the development of snow rollers — at least in Idaho and Washington State.

This one's just weird.

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I agree with the comment saying this looks more like sand. But apparently it's just some weird snow behavior. It looks sandy because it's been covered in dirt, as explained in a later comment.

Wait a second...

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I guess, in the abstract, the only difference here is that the original snow rollers were formed by nature, while this kind of snow roller was clearly formed by people.

Where do they come from?

I live in a snowy climate and I've never seen these things before. But they're apparently not that rare. As always, Wikipedia is your friend when it comes to understanding weird stuff.

Unsurprisingly, wind plays a big role.

Wikimedia Commons | Perduejn

Once snow rollers bulk up, their momentum can carry them down a hill. But in their early stages, they're aided by wind. Small clumps are blown along, picking up more material on the way.

Some of them are big.

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According to Wikipedia, they're usually a few inches across, but can be as big or bigger than a car. I guess that would classify the Idaho snow rollers as "medium".

Why do they look like Swiss rolls?

Wikimedia Commons | Brenda Armstrong

The inner material is what helped the snow roller come into existence, but it's also weak and thin. This means that inner layers tend to blow away, which leads to snow rollers looking the way they do.

What conditions are required?

Wikimedia Commons | Chris Geelhart

Temperatures need to be chilly but not frigid, ideally around the melting point of ice. The snow also needs to be a certain way: thin and loosely packed to allow it to be picked up.

The wind needs to be juuust right.

Wikimedia Commons | Perduejn

If it's too windy, it'll simply blow the snow around. If it's not windy, the snow rollers can't get going. There needs to be just the right amount of snow.

They're more common in hilly areas.

Wikimedia Commons | Brenda Armstrong

This is because gravity helps boost the rollers. Wind might get them started, but if they're on a hillside they'll start rolling and accumulating more snow, wind or no wind.

Have you ever seen these things?

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I haven't, and now I'm obsessed with seeing one. Winter can be tough, but anything out of the ordinary helps make it that much more bearable. If you've got pics of snow rollers, share 'em in the comments!