Both snow and hail are small pieces of ice that falls from the sky. Then what is it that makes it have two names? There actually is quite some difference between hail and snow.

Snow or snowflakes are formed when water freezes in crystal forms. These are star shaped and pointed. These protrusions help the snow to get more space for itself and when it melts, the points disappear. Hail or hailstones are the big ice balls that fall during the thunderstorms. The size of the hailstones depends on the intensity of the storm. It can range from small to large balls. The stronger the storm, the bigger the hailstone is. Or the larger the hailstone, the greater the storm is.

Stellar Dendrite snowflakes
                                                             Stellar Dendrite snowflakes

Snow is formed in the clouds when the water vapour freezes. The best snow makers among clouds are the dark nimbostratus clouds. These clouds will be full of water and if it is cold, instead of water, snow will fall from these clouds.
All snowflakes will have six sides. If you notice that a snowflake does not have six sides, it would have been destroyed in the storm. There can be different shapes for snowflakes. Some of the common shapes are stellar dendrites, columns, hexagonal, and needle snowflakes.

Hailstones are formed by the strong winds pushing the water drops together in the sky. These drops freeze and form ice balls. A hailstone usually starts forming when a frozen drop of water is formed on the ground. The strong wind carries it and the cooled water droplets freeze and sticks to its surface. This starts formation of a big hailstone. When it gets too heavy, the hail falls to the ground. Usually hailstones are accompaniments in tornadoes. An individual piece of hail is called a hailstone. The sizes of the hailstones can vary It can be size of a peanut and as big as a golf ball as well.


Hailstones are formed in the cumulonimbus clouds. Hailstorms last for only about 5 to 10 minutes but can damage cars, crops, and even buildings. Hailstones have rings in it. You can see it, if you cut the hailstone in half.
Snow does not need any support and forms as a free standing crystal. As it gets heavier and the temperature drops, the snowflakes fall to the ground. Hail needs some particulate matter for its formation. It is usually formed by convection.
1. Snowflakes are ice crystals, while hailstones are ice balls.
2. Hailstones are formed when water drops are pressed and cooled against each other due to the strong winds. Snowflakes are formed when water vapour crystallizes.
3. Snowflakes are usually formed in nimbostratus clouds and hailstones are formed in cumulonimbus clouds.
4. Hailstones have rings in it and can be seen when it is cut in half. Snowflakes come in different shapes but will always have six points.
5. Hail occurs during thunderstorms or tornadoes while snow falls when the temperature drops.