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Scott's L.A.™ Article:
Snowing in Los Angeles

Natural snow doesn’t happen often in L.A.  During some winter storms you’ll see snow on the top of Mt. Wilson and Mt. Baldy, but not usually down in the L.A. basin.  We’ll occasionally get snow in some local hills, even down at Malibu in 2007.  But the last widespread snow in L.A. was in 1949 which was the inspiration for the snow scene in Father of the Bride.  That scene was shot in Pasadena on a warm, sunny Spring day.  You can see that house while taking our Pasadena Audio Tour.

But movies may need snow for winter scenes any time of the year.  Movie fans know that plastic sheets, cotton, even instant mashed potato flakes have been used as “snow” in the movies.  It never dawned on me that they’d use real snow.  Well, chipped ice actually, but it’s pretty close to snow.

The Location

The October Road set before snowing effects on the house

This South Pasadena house was used for a “Christmas” episode of the TV series October Road.  If it looks familiar, this was also the house used as the “fraternity house” in Old School  which you can see in the Movie Locations section of our Pasadena Audio Tour.  These scenes were shot on a 78° day in September, 2007.  That’s cotton up on the roof which will be the upper limit of what the camera will see.

But for walking around on snow, slushy sidewalks, or to have snowball fights, you need snow -- so, “Who ‘ya gonna’ call?”  In this case, the movie company called Union Ice Company and their spiffy ICE-FX machine andcrew.

The Process

As you can see below, it’s pretty simple, sort of a combination tree chipper and blower, plus a big supply of ice.  Ice comes out of the truck, into the chipper, then blown wherever it’s needed.

Ice Truck

Loading up the ICE-FX Machine for snow

Ice Cubes go IN the Ice FX Machine

And, no pun intended, but the really COOL part about this is that Union Ice doesn’t do this just for the movies, they’ve “snowed-up” private homes, backyards for birthday parties, restaurants, a parking lot in July with a short ski run.  Anybody can have snow anytime, anywhere!

The obvious question is, “How long does the snow last?”  The answer depends on the weather:  the heat, whether the snow is in shadow or direct sunlight, and other variables.  The snow on this tree-shaded street would have lasted several hours, but they removed it after filming was complete.  The snow in the parking lot on a hot day in direct sunlight lasted about 3 hours.

“Snowing-Up” the Yards

When they “snow-up” locations for movies, they only spray the areas to be seen by the camera, so you’ll see “Summer” yards right next to “Winter” yards.

Pacing real snow in Los Angeles movie set

Shooting snow onto the yard for the scene

The Results

The primary house and a neighbor’s “background” house, are all “snowed-up” for the cameras.  The snow on the ground is real, complete with slushy sidewalks & streets, the snow on the roof is cotton.

October Road House with snow

October Road House background house all snowy

Photos by Scott · Used with permission

So, the next time you see snow in a movie, it might be in a distant location, or it might be right here in L.A.  You can easily imagine any of the Movie Locations on our Audio Tours all “snowed up” for Winter scenes.  Now you know that it may actually be real snow, just not snow delivered by Mother Nature.

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