Vermonters Wonder, ‘Where's Winter?'

This is the 11th least snowy winter on record in the Burlington, Vermont, area, through this point in the season, according to data from the National Weather Service.

So far this season, Burlington has seen 19.2" of snow, but most of it has melted, especially after a recent stretch of mild days and rain. Since record-keeping started in 1895, ten other winters have seen less snow through this point in the season.

The winter with the least snow by now was in 1980, with 10.9" of snow, the data shows, and the winter with the most snow by this point was 1978, with a whopping 99.4" of snow by February 3.

As Special Olympics Vermont prepares for its 21st annual Penguin Plunge on Saturday, organizers noted the Burlington Waterfront does not have the kind of ice and snow cover it has had in many past years.

The Penguin Plunge sees teams take a chilly dip into Lake Champlain to raise money that supports pursuits of athletes who have intellectual disabilities and who take part in Special Olympics programming year-round.

Even despite the lack of ice and snow, Lisa DeNatale of Special Olympics Vermont said the more than 1,400 participants in this year's Penguin Plunge are still very brave to go into the water.

"It still is February; the lake is still cold," DeNatale pointed out. "There are many people who choose not to plunge, so those who do have really demonstrated 32 degrees of courage."

DeNatale said by Wednesday morning, the event had raised $318,000 for Special Olympics Vermont, with more money still to come in over the next few days. The number of participants also set a new record this year, she said.

Rick Marsh, a maple syrup producer in Jeffersonville, Vermont, said the recent mild temperatures created conditions that enabled him to collect sap and boil it down to syrup.

"The trees don't look at the calendar, as I say, they look at the weather," Marsh told necn.

Sap doesn't usually start running from maple trees until closer to spring, but Marsh was able to take advantage of the weather to get a jump-start on producing Vermont's signature product, maple syrup.

"It had a really good flavor," Marsh said of his early syrup production. "I've boiled on the second of February twice, but never on the first on February. If you get a run right now, it's a bonus."

Marsh said he would like to see some snow cover to help insulate the trees' root systems from subterranean freezes, should the mild temperatures return to normal February cold. However, he noted the lack of snow in the woods has made mobility much easier for maple syrup producers, enabling them to tap trees far more efficiently.

While many of Vermont's lower-lying communities have little or no snow on the ground, in the mountains, ski resorts like the Killington Resort have been running snow guns whenever they can. A Killington spokesman said over the past week, snow makers have been able to make snow several nights, helping boost trail coverage. Killington plans to leap into action as soon as the temperatures drop to crank up machine-blown snow, the resort said.

On Burlington's snowless Church Street Marketplace, a planned Winter Weekend celebration will go forward, with ice sculptures, games, outdoor activities, and lights in cool colors like blues and purples.

"The warm temperatures are great, because it means people can be outside a little bit longer than they might otherwise," Becky Cassidy of the Church Street Marketplace said of the milder air expected for this year's Winter Weekend celebration, as compared to last year’s.

Cassidy seemed to find one silver lining, as Vermont waits for winter's return.

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