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Golden Snowball: CNY’s Snow Contest

Golden Snowball: CNY’s Snow Contest

If Central New York is known for one thing during the winter months, it’s snow.

Unlike many southern U.S. cities that shut down after a couple inches of snow, people in CNY embrace the powder so much that the accumulations became a defined contest. The race, known as the Golden Snowball, pits five cities against each other each winter. The award is given to the city with the highest snow total in a winter season.

The five cities that are part of the contest are Albany, Buffalo, Binghamton, Rochester and Syracuse.

Syracuse has won the contest 11 of the last 12 years, the exception being in the winter of 2011-12, when Rochester was champion with only 59.9 inches.

Meteorologists based in Rochester started the Golden Snowball in the 1970s and it lasted until the 1990s, when the Rochester National Weather Service location closed, according to

The current incarnation of the event started in 2002. Steve McLaughlin and another meteorologist brought it back, according to the website, started by Patrick DeCoursey.

The area around Buffalo was buried by a historic lake-effect storm, leaving people stuck at home for days.

The area around Buffalo was buried by a historic lake-effect storm, leaving people stuck at home for days. Photo by permission: Creative Commons

The winner is decided by total inches of snow that accumulates during a winter season. Last year, Syracuse accumulated 132.0 inches, according to the site, narrowly beating out Buffalo, which finished with 129.9 inches. Syracuse’s finish was second nationally, behind Erie, Pennsylvania, with 138.4 inches of snow, according to

Buffalo has jumped out to an early lead for the 2014-15 season thanks to the incredible lake-effect storm that swept through the area on Nov. 18 and dumped up to five feet in some surrounding areas, according to the National Weather Service. It forced the closure of the New York State Thruway for more than 100 miles and stranded the Niagara University’s women’s basketball team on a bus for more than 24 hours.

As major totals piled up as north as Watertown and as south as Jamestown, commenters on took note of the contest, and one added his or her own analysis for the race.


@syrmano The Syracuse-Buffalo battle in the golden snowball is always a tortoise and hare type scenerio.  They always come out with a strong lead (due to big storms like this), but then we slowly reign them in as the season progresses – in particular after Lake Erie freezes (and Lake Ontario remains unfrozen).  A 70 inch lead might be a bit much for us to overcome, but if we hit another 140+ winter, we could still take it.

Syracuse lags behind for the time being, but the city has an entire winter to catch up.

About The Author

Kieran Lynch

I'm a graduate student in the magazine, newspaper and online program at the the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. I'm originally from Long Island and spent the last four years in NYC attending St. John's University.


This site celebrates the people places, and culture that make Central New York one of the most vibrant and livable regions in the country. From Auburn to Utica, from Syracuse, to Ithaca, this is LivableCNY.

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