Campus History

4 Snowiest Snow Days

Students participate in a snowball fight on Bascom Hill.

Jeff Miller

The city of Madison has an average annual snowfall of 53 inches — nearly four and a half feet — which spans seven months of the year. Madison’s record-breaking season in 2007–08 saw a whopping 101.4 inches dumped on the city. If the numbers don’t speak for themselves, just ask anyone who’s endured a Wisconsin winter — it’s a very snowy place. Which is why you may find it surprising that, in the past 50 years (52, to be exact), UW–Madison has shut down completely for snow just four times.

The St. Patrick’s Day Blizzard

March 17, 1965 Storm total of 6.9 inches

Chancellor Robben Fleming LLB’41 canceled classes, which proved to be prescient when the day’s record-high temperatures caused the snow to turn into freezing rain.

The Inaugural Battle

December 8, 2009 14.1 inches in 48 hours

As snow began to pummel campus the evening prior, students asked Chancellor Carolyn “Biddy” Martin PhD’85 on Twitter if she would cancel classes. At 7:45 p.m. the chancellor tweeted that all classes and operations the next day would be canceled. And at 7:46 p.m., students began planning for the inaugural “Battle for Bascom” snowball fight.

The Battle: Part 2

February 2, 2011 14.3 inches in 48 hours

The 2011 snow day was Martin’s second cancellation in just four semesters. This snow day also secured the Battle for Bascom as an annual campus tradition (see “Five Campus Rivalries”).

The Exam Stopper

December 20, 2012 15.2 inches in 48 hours

The next year, Interim Chancellor David Ward did something no UW chancellor had done before: he canceled all in-person final exams for the Fall 2012 semester.

Editor’s note: This list includes only the days when the university shut down completely — when no classes were held whatsoever. The university has closed early on several other occasions, including December 3, 1990, when classes were canceled around 10:30 a.m. on what turned out to be one of Madison’s snowiest days on record.

Correction: This article originally stated that Chancellor Biddy Martin canceled the in-person final exams in December 2012; it was Interim Chancellor David Ward.


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