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When It Snows, There Will Be Snowmen

And in Anne Arundel County, prize-winning snowmen

“Who doesn’t love making snowmen?”

Carolyn Ryan, organizer of the first annual Snowman Building Contest, speaks for her fellow snow lovers at the Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks, sponsors of the first of what they hope will be an annual contest. 

The contest, which is open-ended from the time of the first measurable snowfall to its last blanketing, will be judged in three categories: Traditional; Most original/creative; and Just for kids (14 and under).

Ryan has high hopes for the first annual contest.

“After all the snow we received last year, our hope is that we have some good storms this year and get some good snowmen,” Ryan says.

Hope is the only tool Ryan can bring to snowmaking. Snow follows its own pattern.

“Snow is usually predicted on a day to day basis up to 10 days in the future,” says Ed O’Lenic, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “So beyond that, it’s pretty difficult to pin down when snow will fall.” 

So far, the winter of 2010-’11 has a way to go to match the record-breaking winter of 2009-’10, with above 70 inches of snow.

One-tenth of an inch counts as a measurable snowfall. 

December 16 was Maryland’s first snowy day, with a light dusting. We’ve had flurries since then, including on Christmas day. January 11 brought the next accumulation, two inches to Annapolis (more north; less south). It was enough for snowmen.

“We started receiving entries right after we announced the contest,” Ryan says.

The contest ends, Ryan says, “on or about February 28,” which is about when Maryland’s snow season ends — unless it continues into March.

Between now and then, perfect snowman building is a weather-dependent art. 

“Heavy wet snow that falls from stratocumulus clouds is the best kind to build since it holds its shape,” O’Lenic advises. 

“This usually comes when the temperature is close to freezing, and a deep layer of cold is just above the ground so liquid will freeze or turn to snow before it hits,” the weatherman explains. 

How can you know if it’s coming?

You can only hope.

“It’s very difficult to predict snow since it is restricted by the kind of weather in a specific area and tends to fall in narrow bands,” O’Lenic says.

One thing is certain: It’s got to be cold. But not too cold. Temperatures in the teens or 20s might be too cold for snow to be build-able.

So you’ll have to seize the time to win Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks’ first snowman-building contest. 

Winning snowmen in all three categories will appear in the department’s 2011-’12 Winter Program Guide. The grand-prize winner takes the cover

Send a picture of your snowman, along with name and contact information to Carolyn Ryan at rpryan00@aacounty.org; www.aacounty.org/recparks.