Around the Hill

Snow…  View pictures of historic Hamilton snowstorms, learn about the science of snow, and discover your colleagues’ favorite winter activities.

Sports…  In honor of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, read about a regional snowmobiling club and the Olympic dreams of fellow Hamiltonians.

Sweets…  Enjoy these favorite seasonal cookie recipes, along with the special stories associated with them.

Also, be sure to check out the announcements,  the News from HR, and “Ghost Walk,” the newest addition in our “Getting to Know Hamilton” Series.


What exactly IS a snowflake?

A snowflake begins to form when an extremely cold water droplet freezes onto a pollen or dust particle in the sky. This creates an ice crystal. As the ice crystal falls to the ground, water vapor freezes onto the primary crystal, building new crystals – the six arms of the snowflake.

These ice crystals that make up snowflakes are symmetrical (or patterned) because they reflect the internal order of the crystal’s water molecules as they arrange themselves in predetermined spaces (known as “crystallization”) to form a six-sided snowflake.

Ultimately, it is the temperature at which a crystal forms — and to a lesser extent the humidity of the air — that determines the basic shape of the ice crystal. Thus, we see long needle-like crystals at 23 degrees F and very flat plate-like crystals at 5 degrees F. 

The intricate shape of a single arm of the snowflake is determined by the atmospheric conditions experienced by entire ice crystal as it falls. A crystal might begin to grow arms in one manner, and then minutes or even seconds later, slight changes in the surrounding temperature or humidity causes the crystal to grow in another way. Although the six-sided shape is always maintained, the ice crystal (and its six arms) may branch off in new directions. Because each arm experiences the same atmospheric conditions, the arms look identical.

For further reading see the following, or search for “snow” in the Burke Library Catalog:

NOAA. (2011, Dec 21) How Do Snowflakes Form? The Science Behind Snow. Retrieved from http://www.noaa.gov/features/02_monitoring/snowflakes.html

Libbrecht, Kenneth G. (1999, Feb 1). SnowCrystals.com. retrieved from http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/

LaChapelle, Edward R. (1992). Field Guide to Snow Crystals. Cambridge [England]: International Glaciological Society.

Historic Snowfalls on the Hill

This slideshow highlights selected images from the College Archives of some winter scenes on the Hill; dates are indicated when known.

Snow in 1910 behind what is now Sadove Student center.
Snow removal in the East Quad in front of Truax building where Burke now stands.
1956 DU snow sculpture.
Root Hall
Snow sculpture on Kirkland side of campus.
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February 14, 2007 - A major winter storm hit upstate NY and dumped significant amounts of snow in our surrounding area. According to the Major Winter Storms webpage from Weather.gov, the local area was pummeled with one to over three feet of snowfall. The College did close for the snowstorm Wednesday that brought over 2 feet of snow to the Hill. Local schools were closed for three days in a row and the college closed early on Friday February 16.

Matt Lanza posted the folloing on the WKTV StormTracker 2 Weather Blog, February 15th, 2007:

“We're up to 53.1" for February, which, while it sets the record for snowiest February on record, it puts us about 6" shy of breaking the record for all-time snowiest month ever. The 27.0" we recorded from the Valentine's Day Nor'Easter made it the 3rd biggest snowstorm of all-time, the biggest snowstorm in February history, and the snowiest 24 hour period in Utica's history. The 26.0" we recorded yesterday (we received 1.0" the night before), set a daily snowfall record for Utica on Valentine's Day. Also of note, in the last 30 days, we've gotten 71.4", which may or may not be a record for 30-day snowfall, but it's downright incredible. Anyone who may think that this storm was wimpy can put those thoughts to rest.”

Kathy Collett took a number of photos around campus on Friday February 16 and pulled them from her archives to share with us (below).

Looking out Burke at the East Quad.
Burke entry stairs.
Science building side entry near Burke.
Looking out Science Building window.
Looking out Science atrium windows.
Walkway from Science to Burke.
Sage Rink entry.
Snow removal from the Little Squash Center roof.
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February, 2010 - Nor’easter – the dreaded word meaning that we very well could get a lot of snow.  How about 18 inches in 12 hours?  The last weekend of February in 2010 produced such a storm!  While we watched it come down all day and cleared off vehicles multiple times during the day, there was some fun to have.  The big memory is of Nancy Thompson going to her home in Clinton and gathering extra cold weather clothing because we were going to build SNOW PEOPLE!

I am not certain where the idea started, but I may have mentioned that I had not made a snowman/woman in recent history.  My children figured out how to do it on their own, and since I’m from North Carolina, of course I wouldn’t know how!  So we suited up and headed out during lunch and I got my lesson from Nancy, Cindy Reynolds, Karen Prentice-Duprey and Karen Brewer!  The snow was almost to my knees and was, according to my instructors, perfect for rolling up snow people.  By the end of the hour we had two, one on each side of our building sign with a face on each side.  One for “up the hill” and one for “down the hill.”

We all laughed and worked really hard on our two snow peeps!  Our handiwork so inspired Nancy Thompson that she declared a campus wide “snow people making contest.”  First prize was awarded a pizza party.  Students and employees joined in the fun; one group even created a “Snown Hinde Stewart!”

Honestly, we are looking forward to another storm like that for another shot at the title!

(contributed by Regina Johnson)


Allison Forbes, Assistant, Alumni Relations

The Forbes Family is a hockey family. We anticipate spending many hours in cold rinks this year as both my husband, John Forbes ‘97, and son, Wyatt, play hockey. My daughter Delilah and I also enjoys skating. Every year for the past three years, my husband has attempted to build an ice rink in our backyard. This is a weather depending endeavor of course. Some years are better than others. Last year, we made a couple of trips to Babbitt Pavilion, which had a nice layer of ice for some outdoor skating. However, you need to bring shovels to the pavilion just in case it gets covered in snow.


Anh Murphy, Education Counselor, Opportunity Programs

The Winter Olympics were always my favorite event to watch.  Not being a very sporty person myself, I would daydream about participating in every event I saw on tv. My favorite was down-hill skiing. I loved watching the skiers fly down the mountain, moving so quickly around each gate, trying to beat the clock.  I could imagine the excitement of reaching the bottom and turning to look at my ending time and realizing that I beat the world record and ultimately winning the gold medal. 

Gretchen Maxam, Desktop Integration Specialist, Library & ITS
I’ve always been fascinated by the ice dancers and figure skaters at the Winter Olympics.  I love the combination of the artistic beauty and physicality of every move they perform, from their facial expressions to the power of their jumps and lifts.  When I was a little girl I pretended to be a figure skating competitor and attempted to twirl and jump my way around the small outdoor ice rink made by our volunteer fire department each winter.  If I could live the Olympic dream in Sochi, I would definitely strap on a pair of skates, don myself in the sparkliest sequined outfit and skate my way to gold!

Central New York Snow Traveler’s Club
If snowmobiling appeals to you, then you might be interested in the Central New York (CNY) Snow Traveler’s Club. Jim Melvin of the Physical Plant reports that three snowmobile clubs merged in the 1990’s to form the largest club of its kind in New York State. The merged group, WASTA (Waterville Area Snow Traveler’s Association) and two others, cover approximately 200 miles of trails south of the New York State Thruway. Because of the vast area covered, they changed their name in 2006 to reflect more accurately who they are.

The snowmobilers travel through Oneida and Madison Counties and stop in destinations that include Solsville, Brookfield, Bridgewater, Deansboro and Kirkland. Their membership averages 300 members per year.

The winter trail system is groomed by three Tucker Sno-Cats class A groomers and drags. One is eight-foot wide and two are ten-foot wide. They also use a Polaris work sled with a four-foot wide drag. Even though the trails are well-groomed, sometimes rides do not go as well as planned. There is the chance that you could get “big time stuck.”

Safety of all riders is a primary concern, so they not only keep the trails well-groomed, they also provide a New York State safety course to young and experienced riders each fall.

They also work with the N.Y.S.D.E.C. in the Brookfield forest to develop snowmobile and horse trails. If you’re interested in joining the group, talk to Jim Melvin, or check out the Snow Traveler’s website: www.cnysnowtravelers.com and enjoy a safe ride across New York State.


Italian Cookies - Jaime Thiesen
Coordinator, Alumni Relations, Communications and Development

Jaime loves the holidays and she loves to bake, so making Christmas cookies is one of the things she most looks forward to each year. She’s assisted in the kitchen by her “super helper,” her daughter, Marley (pictured).

They start baking around Thanksgiving and hope to be done by Christmas Eve when the family celebrations begin. Typically, Jaime and Marley make 7 or 8 (or more!) types of cookies, a tradition started by Jaime’s Nana Gert, who taught her most of what she knows about baking. As she is really the only one in her family who bakes for Christmas, Jaime needs crowd pleasers and lots of cookies to dispense. 

The first two recipes Jaime shares come from family friends who provided their favorite recipes at Jaime’s bridal shower - the invitation included a tear-off recipe card. These are very easy to make and produce masses of cookies. The third recipe is one Jaime’s Nana Lucy had in her collection. The links are to PDFs of the recipies, which will open in a new tab. Lemon CookiesCherry CookiesItalian Meatball Cookies   

(With Jaime’s dog, Colden)


Scandinavian Almond Bars - Phyllis Jackson
Creative Services Associate, Communications and Development

The almond bars are a favorite of Phyllis’ husband's - especially when they are still slightly warm out of the oven. They are great with a cup of tea or coffee. While Phyllis tends to make them only at Christmas time, they would be great any day of the year.

Scandinavian Almond Bars



French Pistachio Butter Creams - Linda Michels
Senior Assistant to the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty

One of Linda’s favorite cookie recipes is from the December 1994 issue of Ladies Home Journal, which happened to be loaded with several very good cookie recipes she makes each year. Linda remembers her grandma always making a tempting assortment of cookies for the holidays - she’d make hundreds of them and give them as gifts. Linda’s mom did the same, so it must be in the DNA!  French Pistachio Butter Creams


They’re Just Tollhouse Cookies! - Regina Johnson
Staff Assistant, Office of the Dean of Students

“Oh my, what is your recipe?” “Can you just make your chocolate chip cookies, Mom?” “Is Regina bringing her cookies?” Regina reveals her secret recipe...it’s on the back of the bag of chocolate chips!  (She does note that while the recipe calls for butter OR margarine, cookies made with butter are far superior!)

Regina started making Tollhouse Cookies when she first moved to New York from North Carolina 22 years ago. Homesick for her family’s holiday traditions, she headed to the grocery store and purchased the necessary cookie ingredients, then filled her home with the smells she was longing for. Regina made more than enough for her family, so she boxed some up for her (pre-Hamilton) office where they brought rave reviews.

She now has to borrow a KitchenAid mixer from generous friends (who are repaid with a supply of cookies) and head to BJ’s for the 72 oz. bags of chips! She’s not sure how many actual cookies she bakes, but it takes most of a day, about four pounds of butter, and quite a few little whacks to the many hands in her home hoping to snatch warm cookies. The residents of Elihu Root House, all DOS interns, and, of course, family, are the recipients of the absolute PILE of cookies made. Regina even ships a box off to North Carolina for her best friend who reciprocates with Italian delicacies which Regina hoards!  Tollhouse Cookies


Snickerdoodles - Anh Murphy
Educational and Supportive Services Counselor, Opportunities Program

Though she really doesn’t bake, Anh always tries to make snickerdoodles during the holidays. These are really easy to make and everyone seems to love them.   Snickerdoodles