What is a Snow Fence?

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  • Written By: L. Hepfer
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 March 2020
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A snow fence is used to force drifting snow in a predictable fashion. Snow fences can be either a natural snow fence made of trees and shrubbery or they can be man-made. They are often used to help direct the snow in a direction to avoid roadways when the wind is blowing.

Man-made snow fences can be temporary or permanent fixtures. Temporary snow fences can be made like typical construction type fencing, with wooden stakes holding up orange plastic sheeting. These temporary fences can also be made by using metal stakes supporting a wire fence. A permanent man-made snow fence consists of large poles planted in the ground holding wooden planks that run across the poles, blocking the blown snow.

Snow always drifts downwind, and snow fences can keep snow from drifting into certain spots or block the snow and encourage it to gather in one area, having it accumulate in an area where water is needed. Natural snow fences are still man-made in a sense that the trees and shrubs are purposely planted in a particular pattern to direct the snow. These are called living snow fences.

Living snow fences prevent snow from reaching roadways, farms and communities, and reduce the cost spent on snow management. When snow is prevented from drifting, it improves visibility and lessens ice accumulations and slush. Roads are not closed as often and the pavement tends to last longer, reducing the cost of road maintenance.


Having more visibility reduces the number of car accidents on the road. Less flooding occurs and the spring drainage systems tend to work better. A snow fence protects livestock and improves the habitat of wildlife. It also reduces energy costs and creates a more beautiful, pristine landscape.

When planting trees and shrubbery to make a snow fence, one must consider a number of things. The height, length and type of barrier used is important to consider. These three components must be able to handle the typical snow capacity for the area in which they are being planted.

Growing rows of tall trees and shrubbery will block a lot of snow. Doubling the height and density in the snow fence can quadruple its capacity to hold back snow. A variety of deciduous trees and evergreen trees, combined with various shrubs and tall grass works the best. Snow fences should be built or grown parallel to any roadway but perpendicular to the landscape and communities being protected.


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