Throwing in the Snow

The training ring at Sihlhölzli this morning.

It might surprise people, but we get surprisingly little snow in Zurich. The winter months remind me more of overcast Seattle than the snowy alps nearby. Just this week we received our first snowfall of the year. Many people go inside to throw the weight at the first sign of snow. But it is important to throw the hammer in the winter. It isn’t that hard either.

I may not be from the midwest, but I’ve learned a few tricks that make throwing in the snow very easy. And, if that fails, you can check back in a few weeks for some ideas on building an indoor throwing cage.

  • The process of snow removal starts before the snow comes. It is much easier to clear snow from the ring if you never let it accumulate. If you let the ring get filled with an inch of ice, you’ll be speding hours scraping it away and melting it. The night before snow is forecasted, I put down some salt around the ring and out a tarp or a sheet of plywood over the ring (with room for air between the ground and cover). You need to keep up this routine throughout the winter. I’ve tried various methods over the years, including a torch, and the simplest works the best. If you don’t do anything beforehand, warm salty water can break up ice quickly when it is not too cold.
  • Place distance markers in the field before the snow comes. You distance lines will be hard to find after the snow comes (especially if you se white paint like I do), and a few markers can help you orient yourself.
  • When you go out to throw, dress appropriately. This doesn’t just mean that you have warm clothes and a hat, but also choose clothes that aren’t too restrictive. You don’t want to alter your technique just because you are wearing your big puffy down jacket. If you warm up well you won’t actually need that many layers unless there is wind too.
  • Walking in snow and ice in throwing shoes is an art form. They are built to reduce friction after all. I normally just take small steps, but I’ve know people that have used ski poles to keep from injuring an abductor.
  • If there is a lot of snow, attached colored tape to your hammer handle so that you can find it if it gets lost in the snow.
  • Also, it can help to shovel a path out to a landing zone so that you don’t have to drudge through snow all day. When I was in Belarus, the snow plow came and did this for us. Everywhere else this process likely involves your friend with a snow blower or manual labor and a little back pain. A simpler option is to just walk back and forth on the same path to get your hammer. This compresses the snow and does the work for you. I normally just do that since I’ve never thrown in really deep snow.
  • Throw multiple hammers. Retrieving hammers takes longer in the snow, but you can train faster, stay warmer, and save energy if you throw multiple hammers before retrieving them. On the other hand, remember which direction each throw went so you don’t forget where they all went.
  • Plastic bags over your feet can help keep your feet dry if you can’t stand that type of thing (or if it is cold enough to worry about frostbite). You can get free bags from the produce section of your grocery store. To dry off your shoes between practices, I recommend investing in a fireplace or a cheap shoe dryer. They work wonderfully.
  • Eat a good breakfast. I don’t know what it is about throwing in the snow, but I always get twice as hungry as normal.

Feel free to post your suggestions below. In the meantime I am riding the train south to Locarno for the afternoon. While it is still only 1° C (34° F) today in the “warm” canton, at least there is a coach and no snow.

9 replies
  1. James Findlay
    James Findlay says:

    No major snow yet in Ottawa, Ontario, but its -9 degrees C today. I can only train at night from a lit parking lot so I paint my training hammers flurescent orange with an under coat of white. Helps a bit with finding them.

    In snow I use oversize rubber boots, the overshoe type with front zipper. Slide into them to retrieve and slide off to throw. Keeps feet warmer and drier. Also boat grease on the swivel to keep it spinning. I’ll try that tip for tape on the handle. Thanks.

  2. michael bomba
    michael bomba says:

    These are great tips Martin, just a shame health and safety stop us throwing when it gets bad, even though I’ve been throwing 10years and never had any accidents. Going to try the bags on my feet tonight, and hopefully go home with dry socks! :)

    • Martin
      Martin says:

      It’s a little bit different feeling and I personally don’t like it that much (I also normally have wet feet because of rain so I don’t mind them being wet and a little colder). Give it a try though since I know lots of people that like it.

  3. Joe Pascone
    Joe Pascone says:

    Throwing in snow will increase the activity of Brown Adipose Tissue and burn off fats at a higher rate. Current research demonstrates this uptick in activity of BAT as one of the contributing factors why people in colder climes live longer. Being of high neural and cortical demand, fats go first into the fire for hammer throwers. An extra shot of fish oil or some chia in your pre-throw breakfast should help stave of the ferocity of hunger that will rear it’s head 12 throws in.

  4. Drew Loftin
    Drew Loftin says:

    I enjoyed reading your post on throwing in the snow.  I’ve had to do that several times already this year.  I have developed a system that works pretty well.  For the ring – I purchased a 10×12′ tarp – I place the bottom part of a hurdle upside down in the middle of the ring and place the tarp on top.  I attach the corners of the tarp to the throwing cage with bungee cables.  It takes about 60 seconds to set up.  For retrieving the hammer, I approach it a little differently.  Instead of spending an hour shoveling paths through the snow, I will shovel one path to a chair I have next to the ring about 15 feet away, where I have my snowshoes waiting for me.  It takes about 30 seconds to strap on the snowshoes and about 20 seconds to remove them after I retrieve the hammers, but makes walking out to the hammers very easy and much faster without having to worry about pulling your groin.  I throw 3 hammers each time and use little red flags for distance markers.  I can take about 20 throws in about an hour timeframe.

    • james findlay
      james findlay says:


      Nice post. I’ve thought about trying snow shoes. I have no experience with them. Any tips on model or features that make a quick on/off easy?

  5. TB
    TB says:

    When I’m back in snow country for Christmas, I’ll carry a sheet of plywood out of the barn and lay it on the snow. Slick shoes don’t hold any snow, so the plywood stays dry during practice. Fluorescent nylon strapping tied to the handle helps track hammers and doesn’t tear off like plastic ribbon does.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] it gets old. Fast. First is the physical element. I put together some tips for throwing the snow last year, and while it makes things better the weather still drags on you. Walking to retrieve the […]

  2. […] thing. Throwing outside is the best option since you can get more feedback from your results, and I posted some tips for doing that last month. But it isn’t possible for everyone. In some places the winter is just too extreme to have a […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *