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Warming winters are threatening who we are as New Englanders, and that includes our smugness

How can we be better at winter if there is no winter?

The Blue Hill Ski Area in Canton wasn't looking all that wintry on Wednesday, a familiar sight around New England, and more rain is on the way Thursday.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

A new study has found that winters in New England have warmed dramatically in the past 50 years, led by Burlington, Vt., which is tops in the nation with a 7.1-degree jump in average temperature.

This is important news because it means Vermont leads the nation in something. But it is also tragic because it limits their favorite wintertime activity, which is to yell at people from Massachusetts for not having snow tires.

Concord, N.H. (6 degrees), and Portland, Maine (5 degrees), have also seen a drastic rise in temperature and decline in opportunities to say, “You drove up here in that?”


Across New England, our very identity is at stake, for these warming trends are depriving us of our ability to perform our favorite winter pastime, which is declaring that the other idiot is doing it wrong.

A man fished from a boat Wednesday in Furnace Pond in Pembroke.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

What kind of parent will I be if I don’t greet a shivering child at the door with a nice warm cup of “there is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”?

What kind of Masshole will I be if I don’t get to complain about the people who complain about the weather. Not to brag, but I am a recognized master at saying, “Let them move to Florida and see how they like it in July,” despite never having been to Florida in July.

Do you know how good I am at saying, “They’ll cancel school for anything nowadays?” What am I supposed to do with that masterful inflection when even last weekend’s teeniest of dustings was immediately followed by a 50-degree day?

T.S. Eliot famously said that April was the cruelest month because it mixed memory and desire. April now starts just after Thanksgiving and lasts for five months, a gray wasteland shoulder season that is neither good enough nor bad enough to elicit much emotion. It is Mac Jones.


We pride ourselves on being “true” New Englanders, a distinction that rests solely on declaring that others are not. And at its core, it is a story of hardiness, and hardiness is earned in winter; it is the story we use to keep ourselves warm.

Stop me if you’ve seen this scene before (even if it was many years ago): Someone dares to complain that the winter weather is not to their liking. If you are a true New Englander, you would feel the urge to pounce. “Well,” you’d begin in a tone of practiced condescension. “That’s why you need to ____.”

A melting snowman in Hanson.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Here we insert our favorite winter activity, which is of course better than their favorite winter activity. But what are we to do when the skis and sleds, the skates and shovels, the ice augers and snowshoes are all still sitting in the basement?

I am famous for catching my kids falling into a zombie state in front of the TV and announcing: “Every day is the perfect day for something, now go out and find it.”

“What?” they always reply, confirming that they suffer from early-onset male television deafness. So I turn the television off and dramatically repeat myself.

“Like what?” is always next out of their mouths, and I am rarely unarmed. But lately, I look at them and say, “Go for a walk. But on the sidewalk because it’s already mud season in the woods.”


I will then mutter something about this generation and their screens, before I return to my phone.

And while the idea of “New England winter” conjures images of the great outdoors, the people I worry most about are the indoor people, the urban folk, the citizens of Boston.

There is nothing like waking up after an overnight snow and stepping outside into a metropolis under a blanket of silence. You breathe in the cool air, drink in your surroundings, and prepare for a magical day of getting into fistfights with your neighbors.

Nothing says “you’re doing it wrong” like the annual melee over the unofficial rules for the officially sanctioned practice of claiming a public parking spot because you own a cone. Space savers, as they are known, are fully endorsed by the city government, whose only rule is “please don’t kill each other.” The specifics are left up to each individual, and each individual is certain that all the other individuals don’t know what the hell they’re doing.

But this year? Nothing. Even though Boston winters have risen by only 3 degrees in the last half-century, this winter is a supreme dud so far. There has been nothing that has come close to warranting a “snow emergency,” which is when the city legalizes cone-on-cone violence. I shudder to think what people will do with all that pent-up condescension.

Here’s the thing, kid. If you are using a cone to mark your spot, you ain’t doing it right. What you want to do is use something the city won’t take on a normal trash day, like that old TV you were saving in case flat screens went out of style. What you do is leave that in your spot forever, and when they finally send the trash trucks around to take the space savers, they throw it away for you. Bingo bango.


You’d know that, if you knew what you were doing.

Billy Baker can be reached at billy.baker@globe.com. Follow him on Instagram @billy_baker.