Snow at First Sight

Just Fell for It

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October 2018

Set Up an Office Pool to Guess the First Day of Snow

We used to do a first-day-of-snow office pool at my old job. It wasn’t a big deal, but it was one of those things that made things seem a little less work-weary a couple days out of the year. I was thinking about those office pools again this year as we get to that time in which the first snow of the year is falling in different places. I wanted to write a little bit about this experience and provide some tips for anybody out there charged with running a pool for the first day of snow.


What Counts as the First Snow of the Year?

The biggest question you need to have the answer to is what counts as the first snow of the year. You may have your own wonderfully sweet childhood memories of seeing your yard blanketed in white for the first time, but the truth across an entire region can be a lot more ambiguous. One common strategy is to set the official first snow of the year as at least one-inch of measured snowfall at a specific weather station.

We strongly recommend setting an amount of at least one inch. Trace amounts may fall and melt overnight without any really noticing. You don’t want to create a controversy, but you don’t want to announce that the pool has been won to an incredulous office staff who had no idea there was even snow in the forecast.

Schools and other organizations that are likely to cancel at least one day or event may use this for their pool, rather than the first day of measurable snow. In some places, this adds an unknown element in which unusually dry and warm winters may not see an off-day at all. This can also expand the number of dates that are plausible winners, which is nice for larger staffs. Plus, even more so than measured snow at a specific weather station, an official day off work is even less ambiguous. School office pools may also have the option of creating a secondary winner on the first day with a delayed start due to snow.


How to Run an Office Pool

Apart from the unique factors related to first-snow pools, there are also the same money collection, pool information tracking, and decision-making that comes with other types of office pools. We came across this handy chart of pros and cons for different bookkeeping and communication methods for running an office pool. You can see the original chart from Fun Office Pools here.


Pool Method Pros Cons
Paper and Pencil
  • Cheap
  • Easy for simple pools (10×10 grid)
  • Doesn’t work for complicated pools
  • Subject to errors
  • No communication to pool members
  • No automatic features
  • Labor intensive
Excel Spreadsheet
  • Cheap
  • Can handle more complicated pools
  • Flexibility on how the pool is scored
  • Labor intensive
  • No automatic features
  • No communication to pool members
  • Handles many automatic features
  • Easier on the commissioner
  • Possible cost
  • May be limited in how the pool is scored
  • May not be networked for easy pick entry
  • May not be available for the pool you want to run
  • Handles many automatic features
  • Networked – so greatly reduces the load on the commissioner
  • Easy communication with pool members
  • Possible cost (many web pools cost about $1/person)
  • May be limited in how the pool is scored
  • May not be available for the pool you want to run


Favorite Snow Scenes

This is a space for readers to submit their favorite snow scenes and memories. These don’t necessarily have to be “first time” moments, but I certainly encourage that. Think back to what you realized how magical snow was—maybe you were walking through a park on a snowy afternoon, or perhaps a hometown storm caused three consecutive snow days in seventh grade. No matter your memory, I want to hear it. If you have something to contribute, drop me a line so I can include it in the space below.


Spencer M. — I grew up in Texas, so I didn’t really experience snow until I moved north for college. I never got my driver’s license, so after years of pedestrian life, I came to abhor everything that fell from the sky; in Texas, it was often rain and hail. The first major snow I experienced was in December of 2012, and I’ll never forget it. I got up early on a Sunday to do some work on a paper. Everything outside was covered in a thick blanket of white, fluffy powder. Nobody on the quad was awake yet, and the falling snow barely made a sound. It was the most peaceful morning I‘d experienced to that point. Now, I don’t hate everything that falls from the sky… just the big, wet stuff.


Kayla H. — Growing up in Missouri, I never saw utility in snow. Sure, it was pretty sometimes, but it was mostly a nuisance. It makes the roads dangerous, walking becomes difficult, and I feel shut into my house. It wasn’t until I moved to Vermont for grad school when I finally understood what made snow amazing: skiing. I get why people without mountains hate the fluffy white stuff, but now every snowfall reminds me that skiing season is just around the corner.


Edward S. — I’ve never really liked snow, and I don’t really care for it now. I will say, though, that I appreciate its awesome power. In 2011, my hometown in Illinois was hit with close to five feet of snow during a single storm. The power was out, the roads were closed, and the school system didn’t even bother issuing a cancellation announcement—everyone just knew it was closed. I still don’t like snow, but anything that has the power to completely halt every possible movement is pretty cool in my book.