Living in the Empire State, you can't escape it — snow. So why not celebrate it?
While watching the remnants of several large storms slowly melt away might feel like a reward, there is actually a trophy.
"They've added the second tier, so this is getting a lot like a Stanley Cup," said Buffalo State University Geography Professor Stephen Vermette as he admired the wood, gold, brass and glass trophy sitting in his office on campus. "So we just put this plaque on so this is for the year '21-'22."
Historically, when the city of Buffalo won and refused to accept the honor, it was Vermette who took a trek to Binghamton.
"It took me about two months," he said. "I got a phone call from the deputy mayor, 'Just come and pick it up.' "
The award used to bounce between weather service offices in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton and even Albany, though their name has never made it on the brass plates adorning the sides of the structure. Buffalo has won three of the last five years.
"It is bragging rights. It is a badge of honor. We celebrate what we have," said Vermette. "And we have snow."
But is there a reason why?
"The amount of snow that has fallen has not changed," he noted. "I look from 1965 to the present to see if climate change is causing our snow to decrease."
How Buffalo sits on Lake Erie generally gives it a different set of conditions from other previous winners. As we've seen in recent history, Mother Nature has a tendency to pack massive punches, and the changes due to climate change are a bit surprising.
"We're getting fewer snow days, but since we have the same amount of snow it means we make greater amounts of snow when it does fall," he said. "That may be what's happening in the future."
As it stands, the City of Good Neighbors is officially the winner, for the time being, with Vermette as its official custodian — for now.
"Whoever wins it now, I guess the following winter season, I will deliver it to them," he said.
Vermette has made it his mission to help share the spoils, so the trophy has made its way to different public settings. For the month of April, prior to the announcement, it's going on display at the Erie County Public Library downtown.
"Many people may have heard about the trophy kind of in the background," said Vermette. "But this is an opportunity to actually see it and relate to it."
It offers an opportunity to educate people about the contest.
"This is the first time the trophy has been won in Buffalo back to back," he explained to some library staff as he was setting up the display.
Most importantly, it shows people that a trophy like this is much more than wood, gold, brass and glass.
"Snow can be a lot of fun, but it can also induce hardship and a community that comes together with hardship dealing with the hardship," he added. "That's what this trophy represents."
The past two years, Buffalo has come out on top with Binghamton being the champs before them. Rochester's last hoist was in 2019-2020, and Syracuse last won in 2017-2018.
Albany, as mentioned, never won the golden snowball, but did have the highest snowfall total among the five cities in the winter of 1947-1948, 30 years before the award would be thought up by meteorologists in Rochester and eventually made into something material.