January 21, 2024

Why do adults act so darn weird about wishing for snow?

Snow upends our lives in memorable and sometimes bizarre ways. A hint of wintry weather in the forecast wakes up our inner kids more than any other conditions.

Snowmen, sledding, shoveling, crunchy footsteps amid the silent nights. Every bit of it stirs a sense of nostalgia for those of us who grew up with classic winter weather. It's not just filler or background scenery—snow is a tangible event. It's weather with a purpose.

But some folks take that internal awakening to a childish extreme, lashing out in absurd and even obscene ways when their hopes and dreams of snow are dashed.

If you've ever seen the comment thread on any meteorologist's post about snow, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Fully grown adults aggressively rooting for snow, as if their combative comments and arguing can manifest a big, hearty storm into existence. 

"You're only calling for a dusting? Did you see this morning's run of this weather model? I bet you didn't even look at that. This has SURPRISE written all over it."

"This trough is moving a lot slower than predicted—this is going to be the BIG ONE and you can take that to the bank!"

Every post wishing for snow gets pushback from someone who has (sometimes pretty valid) reasons for wishing that the snow doesn't happen. Frothing arguments begin between "IT MUST SNOW" and "NEVER AGAIN." And the weirdness gets even worse during and after the storm.

"I never said take it to the bank. It should've been snowing by now and it's not. TOTAL BUST. Winter's dead. Try again next year."

"This is total crap. How did the snow break around us? You said it was going to hit!"

"You said 2-4 inches and we only got 2 inches at my house. They still pay you?"

It's...so strange the way entire adults with families and careers seemingly morph into feral trolls whenever there's a potential snowfall on the horizon. 

Enjoying a good snowstorm and rooting for snow is one thing. Acting like a grownup brat whose entire mental well-being is wrapped up in a blanket of snow is not healthy, not normal, and incredibly off-putting.

What on earth is all that about, anyway?

Untangling the web of threads to figure out why people act the way they do on the internet is an impossibly large task. There are plenty of clues that help reveal why snow is a particular flash point above all the top-level chaos in the world that rightly deserves a bit of outrage.

Latent 'Snow Day Trauma'

My long-running theory about this bizarre phenomenon is that missing a snowstorm rips away the unhealed scab of childhood disappointment.

It's the 80s or 90s, you're a kid watching The Weather Channel, and you see a snow icon pop up in the extended forecast. Could it snow? Is it possible? You check the weather every day and see that little snow icon get heavier and closer. Meteorologists start talking about the forecast with promising jargon—system, accumulations, Arctic blast...it all seems like it's really happening.

The night before a potential winter storm is electric. It's cold and the air just smells like snow. Anticipation is through the roof. They said some stuff on the news about "mixing" and "track," but you heard snow and your parents got chips and bread from the store. It seems like a foregone conclusion that tomorrow will be a snow day, the unscheduled holiday that almost every kid dreams about.

You wake up at 4:30 the next morning and rush to the window to see the concrete shimmering beneath a cold, steady rain. It sets off a meteorological version of the stages of grief—this can't be happening, those jerks said it would snow, maybe it'll change over soon, aww man, I'm gonna have to go to school today.

Every kid who grew up in snowy parts of the country—especially somewhere like the I-95 corridor along the East Coast—is well acquainted with the high hopes of a snow day crashing to the ground with the brutal track of an unfulfilled storm. Dry air, warm temperatures, and an unfavorable track can seal the demise of a potential snowstorm before it ever had a chance.

Graduating snatches some of the fun out of snowstorms

The first snowstorm after you graduate high school doesn't hit quite the same. You've had a solid 13+ years of training for this. It's routine at this point. Excitement grows at the prospect of snow and crescendos the night before the looming storm. 

And when you wake up the next morning, that first snowy morning after earning your degree, you look out the window and it really did snow. Sure, the roads are covered and the schools are closed. But what good does it do you now that you're an adult?

Joyful snow-filled days spent with loved ones are memories we can cherish forever. Even as adults we can build snowmen, go sledding, goof around shoveling, and soak in those crunchy footsteps amid the silent night.

The anticipation for all that admittedly still falls a little flat, though, without that childlike yearning for a responsibility-free day off from life.

I grew up just a few miles from I-95 in northern Virginia. There were plenty of mornings as a kid I'd stare out the window on the verge of tears when a snow day I'd hoped for washed away with a cold, unexpected rain. I understand that feeling and I know firsthand how hard it is to shake that disappointment of snow that never falls even long after reaching adulthood.

But when you read these comment threads and see shouting matches erupt over the track of a snowstorm or a few degrees worth of difference between this weather model and that one, taking a step back really clarifies what's going on.

Those angry snow-shouters, in that moment, aren't themselves—they're the kid they were a few decades ago, shouting at the clouds to call off school tomorrow.

Loss of snow days may (sadly) solve the issue

What hasn't helped matters recently is the fact that the I-95 corridor, that same area so often teased by the thin line between epic snows and depressing rain, just this month ended a historic two-year snow drought. The lead-up to those drought-busting snows was almost deafening on social media. Any hint that the snow might turn into a near-miss would've gone as well as lighting a match in a sawmill.

The combativeness is only amplified by the fact that everyone is more ready to fight over everything these days. People have always been on edge. Throw political instability and a life-upending pandemic into the mix and...phew.

I'm not sure we'll ever be able to get past it. Policing emotions never ends well for anyone involved. But I do think this effect will wane with time as school districts gradually—and unfortunately—begin to phase out the entire idea of "snow days." 

The onset of COVID hastened the shift to virtual learning. Now that the infrastructure is in place for teachers to teach remotely and for kids to never know a moment's separation from their schoolwork, many school districts are ditching unscheduled days off in favor of "virtual learning days" instead.

Snow-covered roads? No problem! Put that sled down and hit the books, kid. You've got to log on to class in 30 minutes.

I could write another thousand-word rant on why that's tragic and we desperately need to let kids be kids. But on this one bizarre issue—adults flipping out over snow like they're kids who didn't study for tomorrow's test—the ultimate loss of snow days might even out the disproportionate emotions surrounding snow.

If kids aren't getting snow days at all, their parents might be less likely to feel like they're missing out by proxy. And as those kids grow up, they won't know what it's like to watch hopes of a snow day dashed by a busted forecast...since they'll rarely have hope of a free day off.

[Stock images courtesy of Unsplash]

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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I contribute to The Weather Network as a digital writer, and I've written for Forbes, the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, Popular Science, Mental Floss, and Gawker's The Vane. My latest book, The Skies Above, is now available. My first book, The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, arrived in October 2015.


  1. This is a wonderful post, and explains a lot. Adult teachers still often look forward to snow days (particularly those in districts that still observe them). For those with young kids, it can mean an extra hour or two of sleep in the morning. Like you, I grew up in Northern Virginia, and still remember running downstairs to turn on ‘Red Apple 21’, the local school district channel, to look for the signature red crawl indicating a cancellation due to ‘inclement weather.’

  2. I grew up in Pittsburgh back in the 60's and 70's and have many fun memories of snow days as well as a few memorable disappointments when the storm didn't materialize. Same with our kids in the 90's and 00's. Feel sorry for kids nowadays who'll never get to experience that.
    We live in New Hampshire now and even at age 65 I still feel the excitement and anticipation of an impending snowstorm.

  3. Who wrote this crap? what a joke of an article. Considering the overwhelming majority of people who comment on when will it be warm etc etc etc there are many people who enjoy winter - skiers, snowmobilers, ice fisherman, plow drivers and love snow and cold as it allows them to do the activities they love. Your premise is a joke and your attitude sucks - why don't you examine the overwhelming majority who complain about a fraction of snow and have to Post pics of beaches and sunshine at nauseous proportions - hey I know according to your 2 nd grade understanding of psychology - they
    must have some deep seated childhood fear of falling back into a snowdrift or getting pelted with a snowball 😂😂I've never read such nonsense 😂 get a grip

  4. Climate change will also get rid of the snow day. Grew up in a continental climate? It's subtropical now. Have fun with that.