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Winters can feel fierce for anyone, but the snowiest cities in the U.S. take it to another level. The next time you’re dreading getting the snow shovel, imagine getting ready to plow a foot of fresh powder and count your lucky stars. The Great Lakes and mountains across the country can create some truly frigid conditions.
Whether you’re looking to move to a city with enough snowfall for weekly sledding or want a heads up about where your job is taking you, it’s good to know where snow is most commonly found. Check out this list of the snowiest cities in the U.S., based on NOAA data.
Top 10 Snowiest Cities in the US:
- Sault Ste Marie, Michigan – 119 inches
- Syracuse, New York – 114 inches
- Juneau, Alaska – 93.6 inches
- Flagstaff, Arizona – 87.6 inches
- Duluth, Minnesota – 83.5 inches
- Erie, Pennsylvania – 80.9 inches
- Burlington, Vermont – 80.2 inches
- Muskegon, Michigan – 79.3 inches
- Casper, Wyoming – 77 inches
- Portland, Maine – 70 inches
- Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
People visit Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, to escape the fast city life and relax in a place surrounded by nature. Most often, that same nature is blanketed in snow since the city normally gets 109 inches of snow per year.
In fact, 2022 was the region’s second snowiest year in history. That month alone saw 154.5 inches, more than expected for the entire city.
The good news? Michigan residents manage to celebrate the heavy snowfall annually with a Winter Ice Festival each February. Visitors can enjoy ice carving competitions that make the most of frigid temperatures.
- Syracuse, New York
Reading about New York dealing with lots of snow shouldn’t come as a shock to anybody. People travel to New York City every year to get pictures in snowy Central Park and feel the snowflakes whip around them at the top of the Empire State Building.
The real challenge lies further north. What might surprise you is that Syracuse tops the charts of not only the snowiest cities in New York but also the United States.
Why? Upstate New York residents can thank the impact of lake effect snow. In the Great Lakes region, cold air passing over the lakes’ relatively warm waters brings heavy snow — often producing 2-3 inches of fresh snow per hour.
The average annual snowfall is impressive. Syracuse typically sees 92 inches of snow each year from December to February alone. Syracuse had a slight reprieve in the 2021 to 2022 winter season, with a total snowfall equaling 53.9 inches.
Although, as any native will tell you, winter lasts much longer than those three months. Make sure you brush up on your snow shoveling skills otherwise you might find your car snowed into your garage in March or even April.
- Juneau, Alaska
It’s no surprise that an Alaskan city makes it on the list. Juneau, Alaska, stands out as one of the snowiest cities in the U.S., showcasing its picturesque landscape adorned in a winter wonderland for a large portion of the year.
Snowfall typically begins in early November, with January being the town’s snowiest month. The snowiest winter season (November–May) was documented in 1964–1965 with 194.3 inches. Juneau’s location is the reason for the substantial snowfall. Surrounded by mountains and the frigid waters of the Pacific Ocean, Juneau experiences a maritime climate. Moisture-laden air from the ocean meets the colder temperatures over the city, resulting in consistent and heavy snowfall through the winter months.
It has some of the best hiking in the country, plus tons of local breweries and opportunities to go whale watching. If you stay there long-term, you’ll shovel 71.6 inches of snow off your property yearly, but some residents feel that’s a fair trade for the surrounding beauty.
Unlike some other snowy cities on this list, Juneau had a relatively mild winter in 2019. It was actually the sixth straight winter that the town had seen below-average snowfall.
- Flagstaff, Arizona
Flagstaff, Arizona, is renowned for its high-altitude location and the remarkable amount of snowfall it receives, making it a distinctive winter destination in the southwestern United States. Situated at an elevation of over 6,900 feet amid the Coconino National Forest, Flagstaff’s location is the main reason for its snowy climate.
The city experiences a combination of its elevated position and proximity to the Colorado Plateau, resulting in cold temperatures and substantial snow accumulation during winter.
You can expect the first snowfall as early as October, transforming Flagstaff into a winter wonderland and providing residents and visitors with opportunities for outdoor activities like skiing, snowboarding, sledding and snowshoeing. The snow-covered charm offers a unique and unexpected experience in a state better known for its warm desert climate.
- Duluth, Minnesota
Duluth has rightfully earned its reputation as one of the snowiest cities in the U.S. Nestled on the western tip of Lake Superior, Duluth experiences a unique convergence of cold air masses over the lake, resulting in substantial snowfall during the winter season.
The city’s location along the “snow belt” ensures a consistent supply of moisture-laden air, which transforms into heavy snowfall when met with icy temperatures. Snow drapes over the iconic lift bridge, Lake Superior’s frozen shores and the hills, creating a picture-perfect winter landscape.
The 2022-23 winter was a record-breaking season, with 140.1 inches of snow, far beating the previous record of 135.4 in 1995-96.
Fortunately, residents embrace the cold months with a resilient spirit, participating in sports like ice skating, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. The annual Bentleyville Tour of Lights, featuring a dazzling display of holiday lights is an anticipated event.
Lake lovers travel to Duluth and even move there every year. The massive city sits on the edge of the largest freshwater lake in the U.S. There are endless opportunities for boating, paddleboarding and fishing. You can also go camping and hiking when the area isn’t covered in its annual 62.5 inches of snow.
- Erie, Pennsylvania
Erie, Pennsylvania, claims its title as one of the snowiest cities in the U.S. Situated along the shores of Lake Erie, the city’s proximity to the Great Lake significantly influences its weather patterns. The prevailing westerly winds pick up moisture from the lake, and when coupled with the cold air during winter, the result is lake-effect snow. This phenomenon leads to intense and prolonged snowfall.
The snowiest month in the city’s history was December 2017, with 93.8 inches. However, Erie residents are accustomed to the challenges of heavy snowfall, embracing fun events like the annual Winterfest.
- Burlington, Vermont
Burlington offers tourists and residents a variety of ways to spend their time. You could attend farmers markets, scavenger hunts or tours at breweries and wineries. In the winter, there’s plenty of skiing and snowboarding to do. Don’t worry about missing the snowy season either. The area gets 52.7 inches of snow throughout winter, so there’s a continuous supply settling on the mountains for all your outdoor activities.
- Muskegon, Michigan
Muskegon is no stranger to the enchantment of winter as it experiences a great deal of snowfall. Positioned on the eastern shore of the lake, Muskegon also experiences the effects of the lake-snow effect.
The most snow Muskegon received was 182.2 inches in 1962. The city fully embraces its climate with events like the Winter Sports Complex at Muskegon State Park, offering opportunities for activities like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
- Casper, Wyoming
Located near the Rocky Mountains, Casper is prone to winter weather systems that bring a fair amount of snowfall. Casper Mountain, situated just south of the city, offers ample opportunities for winter sports enthusiasts with its slopes for skiing and snowboarding. The annual Casper Winter Blast and other winter festivals embrace the cold season, gathering the community for chilly celebrations.
Casper’s record-breaking snowfall occurred as recently as April 2023. A snowstorm rocked the state of Wyoming from April 3–5, resulting in strong winds and 37.4 inches of snow, creating blizzard-like conditions. This storm claimed the title of the most snow for a single event.
- Portland, Maine
Portland experiences a classic New England winter, characterized by chilly temperatures and a moderate amount of snowfall that transforms the usual coastal city into a scenic winter landscape.
The city’s historic architecture and waterfront areas, such as the Old Port district, take on a special charm under a blanket of snow. Seasonal events include ice skating at Deering Oaks Park and enjoying the annual Winter Lights celebration. Despite its relatively milder winter compared to some other northern cities, it still gets substantial snowfall, with roughly five mild snowstorms each year.
The Top 10 Snowiest Cities in the U.S.
The cities that top this list are predominantly located on the shores of the Great Lakes, in the far North or in areas with high elevations. While 70+ inches of snow each winter may sound scary, most residents will tell you they adjust to a life full of shoveling, snow days and driving precautions.
Living in one of the snowiest cities in the U.S. may require some guts, but the trade-off is worth it. In return, you get icy beauty, a long skiing season and holidays that typically look picture-perfect. Could you endure it?
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2019. It has been updated for more recent snowfall data in January 2024.