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Previous Articles on The Golden Snowball Award

2004 By William Kates - (AP)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) _ Winning has a way of snowballing, especially in the city of Syracuse, which once again is claiming title to the snowiest big city in upstate New York. 

     According to the National Weather Service, Syracuse received 181.3 inches of snow this winter _ almost five feet more than runner-up Rochester's 125.6 inches _ to win the Golden Snowball trophy for a second consecutive year.  Binghamton came in third with 106.4 inches, while Buffalo ended up with 100.9 inches. Albany had 65.1 inches.

     "It's been known to snow in upstate New York even after Mother's Day, but I think it's safe to say no one is going to catch Syracuse this year," said Steve McLaughlin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Buffalo.  Regarded as America's snowiest city with more than 100,000 residents, Syracuse averages 115.3 inches a year. Outside of Alaska, the National

    Weather Service lists Blue Canyon, Calif. as the nation's snowiest city, with 240.3 inches.The snowiest winter ever in Syracuse was in 1992-93, when the city received 192.1 inches of snow. Buffalo holds the all-time upstate record for a big city with 199.4 inches in 1976-77.The snowfall totals for Syracuse, Buffalo and Rochester are inflated by the squalls that blow ashore off the Great Lakes. Bands of "lake effect" snow rarely reach as far southeast as Binghamton or as far east as Albany.

     "We're very proud to say we have the Golden Snowball in a place of honor in the mayor's office," said Sheri Owens, a spokeswoman for Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll.  However, Owens said Syracuse is willing to share the glory any time some other city wants to wear the crown. 

     The Golden Snowball Award was started in the late 1970s by a former National Weather Service meteorologist in Rochester. It was revived last year by McLaughlin and his co-workers in Buffalo after petering out in the mid-1990s. Syracuse won last winter with 153.2 inches.  The original award was a tennis ball spray-painted gold and stuck on an old trophy base. Last year, a Syracuse shop donated a real trophy: a ball-shaped crystal with gold flecks mounted on a brass base.

     Last year, Pat DeCoursey of Minoa started an "unofficial" Golden Snowball Web site to highlight the competition. He also put up a $100 prize he hoped will be used for a children's charity. He said he was working out details for awarding the money to city officials.
"If you live here, you can't escape the snow so you might as well have fun with it," DeCoursey said.

While Syracuse is "Snow King" among upstate New York's big cities, some smaller communities would like to get into the race, or maybe have a competition of their own. Oswego, which had 208 inches this winter, is one. With a population of about 18,000, Oswego, 35 miles northwest of Syracuse, was one of more than a dozen communities in Oswego and Lewis counties that topped 200 inches.  "We'd bury them," said Bruce MacMillan, a supervisor for the city's Department of Public Works. "I don't think Syracuse has ever had more snow than we've had."  "Those guys in Syracuse could use a little education on how to clear snow," Oswego Mayor John Gosek said. "We'd be willing to go down and train them."

     But even 200 inches is a paltry total when compared to the snowfall in Redfield, a small crossroads hamlet on the edge of the Tug Hill Plateau in northern Oswego County. This year, Redfield has received 299 inches _ so far. "A dusting to us is about a foot," said Dave Archibee, who owns the Redfield General Store about 38 miles northeast of Syracuse.Snow flurries fell Tuesday on Redfield, leaving a temporary white covering on the ground, and there are still patches of snow in shaded areas, Archibee said.  "The snow never ends here," Archibee said. "We just have a warm spell or two, then it's back to winter."

Another Article by William Kates of The Associated Press- 2003

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) _ There's no doubt in Pat Mercer's mind that Syracuse would bury the competition in a snow race involving upstate New York's big cities.  "Buffalo's reputation is just hype. Rochester's not even in our league.  The others, forget about it. No challenge at all," said Mercer, a 52-year-old receptionist at a downtown Syracuse brokerage, while dusting a thin layer of snow off her car Wednesday.  "It would be hands-down every year," she said.

     Syracuse likes to brag that it is New York's snow king but in recent years that claim has been an unofficial boast. Now, two National Weather Service meteorologists in Buffalo want to revive a grand upstate tradition and bring back the Golden Snowball competition to determine which is the state's snowiest big city. "Everybody moans and groans about the snow and makes it out to be a terrible thing," said meteorologist Steve McLaughlin in Buffalo. "This would help give it a more positive spin. And, help people get through the winter. It could be a thing of pride." 

     Presently, Syracuse is the front-runner with 82.4 inches of snow through Tuesday. Hot _ er, cold _ on Syracuse's heels is Rochester with 78.8 inches. Buffalo actually lags fifth currently with 58.5 inches, behind Albany at 73.9 inches and Binghamton with 66 inches.  "I think it would be great if we won, especially with Syracuse and their lake effect snow," said 20-year-old John Pennock of Albany.  McLaughlin admits Syracuse would have the upperhand.  Most of Buffalo's snow comes from lake-effect squalls off an unfrozen Lake Erie early in winter. Eastern New York's snow is generally the result of nor'easter storms coming up the coast.  Because of its central location, Syracuse gets socked by both nor'easters and lake-effect storms off Lake Ontario, which is why it averages 115 inches of snow a winter. Buffalo's average is 97 inches, while Rochester receives slightly more than 100 inches. 

     Government officials would have to be willing to help organize the competition, McLaughlin said. The mayors of Syracuse, Buffalo and Rochester did not immediately return telephone calls Wednesday seeking comment about resuming the competition.  "That's a heck of a trophy to have," said Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings.  "It means you're over-budget and people have worked a lot of overtime."

      McLaughlin and fellow meteorologist Tom Niziol also see the contest as a high-profile way to promote winter safety.  "People enjoy a contest but it also could provide a way to educate people about winter hazards, how to prepare for the cold and what products and guidance are available to make sure the winter is safer," Niziol said. 

     Peter Chaston, now a private meteorologist and author in Kansas City, created the Golden Snowball in the late 1970s while working at the National Weather Service office in Rochester.  In its heyday, the Golden Snowball was presented each spring to the mayor of the upstate champion.  A caravan of meteorologists would visit the winning city for the ceremony, he said.  "People were getting depressed," Chaston said. "A lot of people were getting cabin fever. Personally, I love snow.  But we had to do something to celebrate. We had to use humor to find a way to make people feel good about the snow."

      The contest petered out when the weather service closed its offices in Rochester and Syracuse in the mid-1990s, ending the good-natured competition among upstate meteorologists. The original trophy went to Syracuse but was never returned by Mayor Lee Alexander, Chaston said.  So meteorologists made a second trophy, converting someone's old Little League baseball trophy, said Niziol. They removed the baseball player and replaced it with a rubber ball and then spray-painted it gold. The Golden Snowball remains in a "venerable place" on a shelf at the Buffalo weather office, Niziol said.  If the competition is revived, Niziol would like to see each of the cities kick in a few dollars for a more appropriate trophy.  "It could be like the Stanley Cup. We could engrave the name of the winner on the trophy every year," he said.  McLaughlin and Niziol already have ideas for honoring the winner.  Every year, the Golden Snowball could be brought to the winning city, maybe in a limo, with a state police escort. The governor could preside over the presentation, which could be made in comic-dramatic fashion at the bottom of a sledding hill, with the trophy delivered by officials on a toboggan.  "The snow isn't going to go away. If people want to be in denial and be depressed, that's their choice. This is a way to embrace it and have some fun," Niziol said.