Satellite radar altimetry provides data to monitor winter Arctic sea-ice thickness variability on interannual, basin-wide scales. When using this technique an assumption is made that the peak of the radar return originates from the snow/ice interface. This has been shown to be true in the laboratory for cold, dry snow as is the case on Arctic sea ice during winter. However, this assumption has not been tested in the field. We use data from an airborne normal-incidence Ku-band radar altimeter and in situ field measurements, collected during the CryoSat Validation Experiment (CryoVEx) Bay of Bothnia, 2006 and 2008 field campaigns, to determine the dominant scattering surface for Arctic snow-covered sea ice. In 2006, when the snow temperatures were close to freezing, the dominant scattering surface in 25% of the radar returns appeared closer to the snow/ice interface than the air/snow interface. However, in 2008, when temperatures were lower, the dominant scattering surface appeared closer to the snow/ice interface than the air/snow interface in 80% of the returns.