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Gilmore Girls leaned into the New England energy of Connecticut. The series, set in the fictional town of Stars Hollow, really loved playing with the weather and different seasons. The four seasons served as a perfect backdrop for the dramedy. While the fall was an important season for the series, so was winter. Lorelai Gilmore was obsessed with the winter and, more specifically, snow. The quirky inn owner even once suggested that she could smell snow. No one else in Stars Hollow seemed to share her “gift,” but is it that bizarre? Many people who grew up in cold climates probably know the exact smell Lorelai was referencing. So, does snow have a scent? Scientifically, sort of. 

Lorelai Gilmore could smell snow 

Gilmore Girls filmed many snow scenes, despite the cast and crew spending most of their filming days in Burbank, California. There was a reason the snow was so important to the show. Not only was the series set in Connecticut, but Lorelai Gilmore had an emotional attachment to the winter weather. She insisted the best things happened to her during snowfall. 

'Gilmore Girls' cast members Lauren Graham as Lorelai Gilmore and Alexis Bledel as Rory Gilmore standing in a snowy Stars Hollow
Lauren Graham as Lorelai Gilmore and Alexis Bledel as Rory Gilmore | Saeed Adyani/Netflix

The quirky mother of one was so attached to snow that she could sense it coming in. Apparently, that’s not a skill her daughter, who Lorelai insisted was her clone, had. In fact, in season 1, Rory Gilmore alleged that the ability to smell snow was something only Lorelai had. Luke Danes backed up that assertion a few seasons later. As it turns out, Rory and Luke were wrong, and Lorelai was right. You can, in fact, smell snow. 

So can you really smell snow? 

Gilmore Girls may have acted as if Lorelai Gilmore was the only person who could smell incoming snow, but that’s not the case. Many people who live in cold climates swear that incoming snow blankets the area with a distinct smell before the first flake falls from the sky. Apparently, there is a scientific explanation for it. 

According to Reader’s Digest, three different factors influence how the outdoors smells right before and during a snowfall. According to the publication, everything in the air slows down when the temperature drops outside, and the traditional “outdoor” smells are muted. The muted aroma of the outdoors makes it easier to smell other, more natural fragrances. That might explain why some people describe snow as smelling “clean,” “fresh,” or “crisp.” 

That’s not the only factor at play, though. Humidity, which rises around a precipitation event, also makes the sense of smell more sensitive. That added sensitivity helps people pick up on certain scents directly linked to winter weather. Finally, the cold weather associated with a snow event also triggers the trigeminal nerve, the part of the nervous system that interprets coldness and spice. Fun fact, the trigeminal nerve is also responsible for making someone sneeze when they look at direct sunlight.  

Power lines coasted in heavy snow after a storm in Madison, Connecticut
Snow in Madison, Connecticut | Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

The ‘Gilmore Girls’ Intro Utilized a Different New England State for Footage

While there is a scientific reason why people can “smell” snow, there is also a scientific reason why comparing the smell to anything else is difficult. According to the Washington Post, the scent of snow differs from region to region and is largely influenced by what is in the air and on the ground. So, the smell Lorelai insists is the smell of snow in Connecticut might be entirely different than the smell someone in North Dakota associates with impending snowfall. 

So, can you smell snow? Yes. The way it smells, however, can and does differ.