I’ve always found Seattle’s relationship with snow amusing. You would too if you’d spent a significant part of your adolescence in Wyoming, where temperatures frequently dropped below zero. You plugged in your truck to heat the engine at night or you were going nowhere the next morning—your motor rendered as useful as a frozen fish stick. And the snow piled high. Sometimes up to your waist. Average annual snowfall: 5.4 feet.
By comparison, Sea-Tac measures an annual 6.8 inches. A snowstorm here typically leaves a white dust, sparkling and brilliant in the morning light but gone within hours, vanished like some secret message inked in a John le Carré plot. When it does stick, locals are ill prepared. There’s a YouTube video from a few years back titled “Seattle Drivers in Snow.” In a montage worthy of its “Yakety Sax” soundtrack, cars slide uncontrollably down a hill and twirl into each other with a gentle crash. It’s like watching a herd of hippos perform Swan Lake on ice skates.
So yes, for the past decade I’ve chuckled at Seattle and its reaction to flurries—the school closures when snowflakes are merely in the forecast, the full-blown adults breaking out innertubes to blunder down barely white hills—and I’ve shared this amusement with friends and coworkers who also hail from legitimately hypothermic climes. And while we have great fun on our back page this month with the city we love (“An Inch-By-Inch Guide to Snow in Seattle”), it’s worth noting that snow here can have consequences.
It may have even cost a mayor reelection. In December 2008 a rare 14 inches fell and the city shut down. Side streets remained untouched by snowplows and impassable for days. Except, notably, those streets surrounding the West Seattle home of then-mayor Greg Nickels—cleared, many later argued, by a sycophantic, priority-challenged SDOT. Months later the mayor didn’t even clear the primary election.
Luckily, though Seattle lacks arctic dexterity it scores high in proximity to serious snow and serious snow play. We celebrate that in our cover story (“The Seattle Met Guide to Skiing and Winter Fun”). Within two hours you can be at three different ski resorts—Summit, Crystal, and Stevens Pass—where no one’s going to laugh at you for sliding down a hill.