Skis, snowballs and Southern snowmen: What’s a Southern snowman?

For a few frozen hours Sunday, the sleds ran smoothly, the snow rolled into perfect snowballs and the snowmen’s noses stuck straight out.

With the storm dumping 6 inches of wet, heavy snow, Raleigh enjoyed an early-morning wonderland free of slush and dirty ice.

Callie DeBellis glided down Fayetteville Street on a pair of skis, channeling her frosty youth.

“I grew up in the North,” she explained, “but my first winter here was when we had the 20-inch storm, so I thought, ‘Hey, I can live in the South.’“

Around Raleigh, residents struggled to remember a storm hitting before Christmas, and they celebrated snow so perfect for sculpting.

In Oakwood, Sarah David supervised a 4-foot snowman built by her two sons, Macon and Jed. In a typical Raleigh storm, the powdery snow crumbles away.

“I always laugh that Southern snowmen are 60 percent dirt, 30 percent grass and maybe 10 percent ice,” she said.

In Oakwood Cemetery nearby, a dozen children braved the hills at one of Raleigh’s favorite sledding spots.

Their snowmen came together so easily that the bottom circle grew as tall as their heads, and they gave up building them to toss snowballs at dads on the hill.

“It’s quite good for snowballs,” said Frank McKay, who spoke from bitter experience. “Almost too good.”

As if on cue, his daughter approached with a load of wet powder that filled her sled.

“Hey!” said McKay, fleeing. “That’s a snow boulder!”

But by noon, the flakes turned to fat raindrops, and the city turned from Christmas white to slushy December gray.

Snowmen washed away, their carrot noses stranded on the grass.

With schools closed Monday across much of the Triangle, sledders and snow sculptors settled in for black ice and Netflix.

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Josh Shaffer covers Wake County and federal courts. He has been a reporter for The News & Observer since 2004 and previously wrote a column about unusual people and places.