In the contest for the Golden Snowball – emblematic so far this winter of both the snowiest large city in New York, as well as the entire nation – Buffalo has jumped out to a 16-inch lead over runner-up Syracuse, the more typical champion.
That snowy winter has also put Western New York in the running for an even rarer milestone, a status you might call a kind of wintry Snowball Cup, and our rival is a familiar one to those with a keen sense of Sabres history:
Buffalo is locked in a close race with Ottawa to be the snowiest large city in all of North America, according to Canadian climatologist David Phillips, a weather disciple with a passion for big snow. As of Friday, Phillips said, Ottawa led Canada with 98 inches of snow for the season, four-tenths of an inch more than Buffalo, the U.S. leader, at 97.6.
Ottawa, which Phillips notes is almost always the snowiest national capital in the world, has had "the toughest winter" among Canadian cities of 100,000 or more, he said.
Phillips also found certain parallels in the heavy snow in the two cities. In much the way Buffalo is usually "outsnowed" by Syracuse, Ottawa is typically not the snowiest large city in Canada, Phillips said, a status more routinely bestowed upon such cities as St. John's Newfoundland, Quebec City or even Montreal.
Yet Ottawa, this winter, is getting pounded. As for why these civic snowfall comparisons command such fascination, even when people grow weary of cold weather, Phillips described that curiosity as a wintry function of human nature, a kind of gentle coping mechanism.
"Snow often defines the look and feel of winter," he said, "and they use snow as a mark of just how tough their winter was."
Usually when Buffalo is in a pitched battle with Ottawa, the goal at the end is the Stanley Cup. The Sabres and Senators have met in the playoffs four times, with the Sabres winning three of them, including the epic 2006 series which the Sabres won 4 games to 2 when Jason Pominville scored an overtime, shorthanded goal in game 6 and an iconic "These guys are good! Scary good!" call from Rick Jeanneret.
It remains to be seen whether snow will mirror hockey, at least in this fierce winter. Along those lines, Phillips offered this closing thought, which may or may not apply to Buffalo: A solid one-third of the annual snowfall in Canada usually comes after Valentine's Day.
"People may want it to be over," he said, "but it's not over."
-- Sean Kirst
Story topics: Golden Snowball