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Snowiest Places in the United States
November 03, 2021
What are the snowiest places in the United States? We examined NOAA climate records to find the places in the U.S. which received the most snow in the thirty year span from 1991–2020. Let's take a look at what we found!
One quick caveat. There aren't many reliable weather stations on remote mountain peaks so it's possible this list is incomplete. In particular, Mount Baker in Washington state is sometimes considered to be the snowiest place in the world.
Without further ado, here are the twenty snowiest places in the United States!
1. Alta, Utah
39.0 feet per year (11.9 meters)
Skiiers looking for fresh powder will find no better place than this tiny ski town located less than an hour's drive from Salt Lake City. Sitting at an altitude of 8,500 feet, Alta gets enough snow to bury a three story building each year. The snows typically last from September until June, but it's been known to snow even in the middle of July.
37.3 feet per year (11.4 meters)
Fun fact: the island in the middle is called Wizard Island
Crater Lake was formed when a volcano collapsed about 7,700 years ago, leaving a giant crater behind. The crater filled with water and is now the deepest lake in the United States. Getting more than 37 feet of snow every year sure helps to keep the crater full.
24.1 feet per year (7.4 meters)
With famous ski resorts such as Vail and Telluride, Colorado has a lot of snowy places. But none of them are snowier than this ghost town on the Continental Divide. With an elevation of 11,360 feet, the town of Climax was once the highest human settlement in the United States. Unfortunately, the last inhabitants moved out in the 1960s.
23.3 feet per year (7.1 meters)
The Mount Washington Observatory proudly proclaims itself to be "Home of the World's Worst Weather". Wind speeds have been measured at up to 231 miles per hour, which is the fastest ever recorded except for tornadoes and tropical cyclones. And while the temperature on Mt. Washington has never exceeded 73° F, it is capable of falling to 45 degrees BELOW zero. Oh, and Mt. Washington also gets a lot of snow. In 1969, it received more than 4 feet of snow during the course of a single day.
21.9 feet per year (6.7 meters)
Holden is a tiny village in the North Cascades that is only accessible via ferry or by backpacking. Formerly a copper mining town, it is now a Christian retreat. The remarkable amount of snow that Holden gets may indicate that there are other areas in Washington state which, if adequately measured, could be even snowier than any place on our list. For example, nearby Stevens Pass is colder and much wetter than Holden, but for some reason does not measure the amount of snowfall received.
6. Southeast of Anchorage
21.7 feet per year (6.6 meters)
Two locations southeast of Anchorage show up on our list including Main Bay at 21.7 feet per year, and the ski resort of Alyeska which gets 17.8 feet per year.
19.0 feet per year (5.8 meters)
Mt. Mansfield is the highest mountain in Vermont. Rumor has it there is a sign on the summit which reads "Home to the World's Second Worst Weather".
8. Scofield, Utah
18.9 feet per year (5.8 meters)
18.5 feet per year (5.6 meters)
This tiny little ski town is the closest human settlement to Mt. Hood, the tallest mountain in Oregon. The slopes of Mt. Hood get so much snow that they are able to offer the only year-round lift-based skiing in North America.
18.5 feet per year (5.6 meters)
California isn't just sunshine and bikinis. There are some parts of the state which get enough snow each year to bury a giraffe.
11. Upper Peninsula of Michigan
17.3 feet per year (5.3 meters)
There are a few places in the U.P. of Michigan which would appear here if listed separetely, the snowiest of which is the tiny hamlet of Herman.
12. Mystic Lake, Montana
16.7 feet per year (5.1 meters)
16.6 feet per year (5.1 meters)
16.4 feet per year (5.0 meters)
The snows at Yellowstone National Park are as reliable as the Old Faithful geyser.
15. Vail, Colorado
15.8 feet per year (4.8 meters)
14.9 feet per year (4.6 meters)
This city in the Black Hills was founded in 1876 after gold was discovered nearby. Personally, I would have named the town Gold instead of Lead.
14.9 feet per year (4.5 meters)
This small town on the shores of Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada mountains is located just 20 miles away from Donner Pass. The Donner Party found out first hand just how severe the winters can be in this part of the world.
Snowiest Major City in the United States
All the cities that appear on this list are extremely small. So what's the snowiest major city in the United States? Among cities with a population of at least 100,000, the snowiest is Rochester, New York which gets 101.7 inches (8.4 feet) per year. Nearby Buffalo is close behind at 95.7 inches (8.0 feet) per year.
Can We Do Better?
As I mentioned before, it's possible there are places that are even snowier than everything on our list. If I had to guess, I would say that the mountains of the Alaskan panhandle could be the snowiest place in the United States. The city of Ketchikan gets 149 inches of rain every year. Nearby mountain slopes could get the same amount of precipitation, but mostly in the form of snow. If so, it could easily amount to over 100 feet a year. Sadly, there are no reliable weather stations on these remote slopes so we'll never know for sure.