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Winter has come to Mount Washington

Mount Washington got its first big autumm snowfall on October 18 and 19.
Jackie Bellefontaine
Mount Washington Observatory
Mount Washington got its first big autumm snowfall on October 18 and 19.

Winter has arrived on New England’s highest mountain. Since Monday, the Mountain Washington Observatory has recorded seven inches of snow, making it the first big snowfall of the season. As of Thursday, only some of the snow remained.

Jackie Bellefontaine, a weather observer and education specialist at the observatory, says the summit started looking like a “winter wonderland” after several days of cold fog.

“The summit looks absolutely gorgeous, covered in snow and rime ice,” Bellefontaine told NHPR via phone on Wednesday. Rime ice occurs when water droplets freeze onto the services of trees and other objects, giving them a feather-like frosty look.

Bellefontaine and her colleagues rotate through 8-day shifts on top of the mountain. They spent much of Wednesday shoveling snow and removing ice from the instrumentation on top of the tower, which records wind direction, wind speed, and other weather conditions.

The mountain, known for having some of the most extreme weather in the world, has an annual temperature average of 28 degrees and gets average winds of around 45 mph in the winter months. The mountain’s record peak gust is 231 mph, recorded in 1934. In 2020, gusts peaked at 147 mph.

But Bellefontaine, in her snowpants, two jackets, and goggles, says this is what she’s been waiting for.

“We very much enjoy our snow up here on the summit,” she laughs. “We’re all very much into the extreme winter weather.”

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.
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