Blizzard at the Beach?


Image courtesy of Joée Dutrisac

Snowman built by the winner of the photo contest, Joée Dutrisac.

An unlikely juxtaposition- how many would describe walking outside of their homes last week and catching a glimpse of our familiar Santa Barbara mountains covered with snow. It is no secret that the beginning of 2023 has come with a sequence of extreme weather events for our city. As of March 1st, Santa Barbara has already received over 190% of our average yearly rainfall. For the first time in ten years, the Lake Cachuma Reservoir is overflowing, after being only filling one-third of its capacity just two months prior. Perhaps the most shocking of all was the blizzard warning issued to multiple areas of southern California in the past week. Despite all of the warnings and news, actual snowfall in Santa Barbara was an unexpected sight and locals made sure to take advantage of the unique opportunity to experience it.

Snow on the mountains up the 154 Highway. (Lily Wallace)

After the storms, cars began heading up Painted Cave and Camino Cielo Road and were transported away from the desert and into a winter wonderland. Unfortunately due to the unsafe and unfamiliar driving conditions, multiple car accidents took place but luckily resulted in no severe injuries. Anticipation only grew as vehicles were seen coming down the mountain lightly dusted with snow and decorated with little snowmen placed on their windshields.

The real lighthearted fun began at higher elevations, where hundreds gathered to take part in snow related activities. From snowmen to snowboarding, no possibility was overlooked by eager Santa Barbara residents. People explored the icy landscapes, had intense snowball fights, built all kinds of structures out of the snow, made snow angels, went sledding, and even attempted typical snow sports like skiing and snowboarding, all while staying in our normally warm and dry city. This incredible weather event was also a wonderful chance for those who had never seen snow in real life to experience the pleasure and excitement that it comes with.

Students at San Marcos were given the opportunity to show off their own photos capturing this rare weather event in a school wide snow photo contest. One especially cool photo was taken by sophomore Joée Dutrisac.

“I’ve been up to the mountains a lot before but the snow was a new sight,” said Joée. “My family and I went sledding, we played with dogs that people brought, I laid in the snow, I walked through the trees, and we threw snowballs at each other too.”

The winning photo was taken up the East Comino pass in about two feet of snow as Joée described. 

“The photo that I submitted was of the second snowman that I built during my time there.” Joée said when asked to describe the adorable picture. 

When our typical end of summer heatwave comes along and our climate inevitably returns to its usual hot and dry conditions, we will all think back to our remarkable experiences in the Santa Barbara mountain snow.