Despite 55 inches of snowfall this past winter—Charlottesville’s highest total on record—the University shut down for only one day. In March, more than 400 Facilities Management employees were honored (and presented with “Blizzard Wizard” caps) for their around-the-clock efforts to keep streets and sidewalks clear of snow during a series of major snowstorms. “It was an extraordinary winter, with many challenging conditions,” said Colette Sheehy, vice president for management and budget. “A lot of these employees left their homes and their families to be here to respond to things as they developed.”
Through it all, the UVA Medical Center never closed. “Each and every one of you helped ensure our mission of excellence in patient care was never jeopardized,” Edward Howell, vice president and CEO of the Medical Center, told those gathered at the March event. “As of March 1, we have cleared nearly 2 million square feet of snow. That equates to approximately 45 acres of snow. Interestingly enough, you could have created 464,504,334 four-inch snowballs, which when laid side by side could have gone 1.18 times around the Earth.”
Those statistics are impressive, but one tangible measure of the snow could be seen just a stone’s throw from Grounds. Plows created a towering snow mountain in the Barracks Road Shopping Center’s parking lot that inspired awe among Charlottesville residents and provided a lasting reminder of the winter storms. Dubbed “Mount Chipotle” for its proximity to Chipotle Mexican Grill, the peak was 50 feet high in mid-February.
A group of UVA graduate students established the Mount Chipotle National Research Observatory to study and monitor the great mass of dirty snow. Light-hearted scientific activity at the observatory included summit ascents, core sampling and observing melt rates. A portion of proceeds from an informal contest that invited students to guess the day Mount Chipotle finally melts will benefit the environmental science department’s graduate student association.
Despite unseasonably warm temperatures that soared into the 90s in early April, Mount Chipotle, though greatly diminished, still stood as of press time.