The 10 Snowiest Cities in the World

View of snow covered park and old town, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

Preserved Light Photography / Getty Images

Snow means different things to different people. On one hand, it has the power to transform even the ugliest landscape into a glittering wonderland of refracted sunlight and stilled sound. On the other hand, it is also capable of turning the daily commute into a nightmare of sludge-coated roads and slippery sidewalks. In many places, the ever-present specter of global warming means that snow is becoming an increasingly rare phenomenon; while in others, snow is a way of life that seems unlikely to change anytime soon. Here's a look at some of the world’s snowiest cities.

01 of 10

Syracuse, New York, United States

Syracuse University - Winter Scene - New York State

Tony Shi Photography / Getty Images

With an average annual snowfall of 124 inches, Syracuse is now stranger to snow. Records show that the city occasionally experiences heavy snowfall, with an all-time high of 192 inches in a single season. Statistics like these cement Syracuse’s status as the snowiest metropolitan area in the United States, a claim made possible by a combination of different geological factors: the city’s proximity to Lake Ontario and the regular dumping of snow by nor’easter cyclones.

Known as the economic and educational hub of Central New York, Syracuse is as famous for its weather as for its university’s Division I sports teams. The city consistently wins the Golden Snowball Award, a humorous accolade given to the Upstate New York city with the most snowfall each season. Syracuse has won the award every year since 2003—except for the 2011-2012 season when Rochester temporarily seized the crown. Fellow competitors Rochester and Buffalo qualify as the world’s eighth and ninth snowiest cities respectively.

Syracuse, NY, USA
02 of 10

Sapporo, Japan

Slide of Ice at Yuki Matsuri Snow Festival

Steve Kaufman / Getty Images

Located on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, the city of Sapporo sees an average annual snowfall of 191 inches, despite enjoying warm summer temperatures of up to 97 degrees F (36 degrees C). Sapporo’s snowy winter climate makes up a large part of its international identity. It is known around the world as the first Asian city to host the Winter Olympics in 1972, and for its annual Sapporo Snow Festival.

Held each year in February, the Snow Festival attracts more than two million visitors from all over the world. It features professionally crafted snow and ice sculptures, all of which are beautifully illuminated at night. The sculptures are an incredible feat of engineering, with the largest measuring up to 50 feet (15 meters) in height. Sapporo’s high snowfall is due in large part to the southward flow of icy air from eastern Siberia. Apart from its exceptional weather, the city is known as the home of internationally exported beer brand Sapporo.

Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
03 of 10

Chamonix, France

Chamonix, France

Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

One of France's most famous ski regions, it's no surprise that Chamonix winters are perfect for winter sports. Ski bunnies descend on the region's famous mountains often to be greeted by a whopping average snowfall of 429 inches. The region's primary mountain, Mont Blanc, records winter temperatures 20 degrees lower than the city below.

Home to 13 ski resorts and 9 villages, the region's heavy snowfall and chilly winters are influenced by the location of its mountains and valleys. The 8,000 foot point of Mont Blanc and above is completely snow-covered in winter. The mountain is also known to remain snowcapped throughout summer.

Chamonix, France
04 of 10

Quebec City, Canada

Rue du Petit-Champlain in winter

Doug McKinlay / Getty Images

The capital city of Quebec sees an average annual snowfall of 124 inches. Although officially classified as having a humid continental climate, Quebec City is no stranger to cold temperatures with record winter lows of around -34 degrees F (-36 degrees C). Snow typically starts to fall in early November and stays on the ground until mid-April. Quebec City celebrates its chilliest season with the Quebec Winter Carnival, a two-week extravaganza that includes parades, winter sports, and snow-sculpting competitions.

Throughout the rest of the season, Quebec City remains a favorite destination for winter sports enthusiasts, with opportunities for ice-skating, ice-climbing, and cross-country skiing all within easy reach of the city center. There are also several ski and snowboard resorts located less than an hour’s drive away, including Stoneham Mountain Resort and Monte-Sainte-Anne. Quebec City is also famous for its UNESCO protected Old Town, whose picturesque colonial architecture reflects the city’s identity as one of the oldest in North America. 

Québec City, QC, Canada
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05 of 10

St. John’s, Canada

Snow, Jellybean Row St Johns, Newfoundland, Canada

Adrian J Warren / Getty Images

The capital of Canadian province Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John’s boasts an average annual snowfall of 131 inches. St John’s adds this accolade to a series of other meteorological superlatives, including its status as the foggiest, windiest, and cloudiest of all major Canadian cities. The region’s extreme weather results in snow that regularly transitions to rain part-way through a storm, so that despite St. John’s heavy snowfall, snow is often slow to settle.

In addition to snow, St. John’s often experiences freezing rain, whereby subzero temperatures cause liquid rain to freeze upon contact, covering everything with a thin layer of ice. February is traditionally considered the coldest month, with average lows of -16.5 degrees F (-8.6 degrees C). Despite St. John’s frequently inhospitable weather, there are plenty of reasons to visit the oldest English-founded city in North America. When the sun shines, the city’s multi-colored row houses are a sight to behold, while its music, art and culinary scenes are both vibrant and eclectic. 

St. John's, NL, Canada
06 of 10

Toyama, Japan

Japan, Toyama Prefecture, Toyama Castle, Snow covered trees near castle

R.Creation / Getty Images

Toyama is the capital of Toyama Prefecture and one of the snowiest cities in the world. Located in central Honshu on the Sea of Japan coast, the city experiences an annual snowfall of 143 inches, despite having a humid subtropical climate. Almost all of Toyama’s snow falls between December and March, with January typically considered the snowiest month. With record highs of 103 degrees F (39.5 degrees C) in summer, Toyama’s winter snow is a phenomenon caused by the city’s proximity to the coast and its location within Japan’s snow belt.

Toyama is traditionally recognized as a center for medicine and pharmaceuticals, and as a convenient gateway to excellent skiing and snowboarding in the Japanese Alps. The city itself has several worthwhile art galleries, museums, and historical landmarks, but the most important attraction for snow aficionados is the nearby Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. Designed to showcase the dramatic scenery of Mount Tateyama, the sightseeing route is closed from December to early April; however, towering snow walls edge the road well into the summer.

Toyama, Japan
07 of 10

Erie, Pennsylvania, United States

Erie, Pennsylvania

Corey Supel / Getty Images

The state of Pennsylvania is no stranger to snow, but one city takes the cake. The northwestern city of Erie averages 57 days of snow each year, with an average annual snowfall of 104 inches. Temperatures in the wintertime drop to an average 18 degrees F.

Often overlooked by travelers, Pennsylvania's fourth largest city has plenty to offer when it's not snowing. The city boasts an acclaimed wine country, extensive maritime history, plenty of beaches, and two beloved state parks, Presque Isle and Erie Bluffs, that are perfect for summer fun.

Erie, PA, USA
08 of 10

Aomori City, Japan

Bus on Snow mountain road, Aomori prefecture, Japan

Mitsuhiro Wada / Getty Images

Aomori City, the capital of Aomori Prefecture in the far north of Japan’s Honshu Island, is a true winter wonderland. Every year, Aomori City experiences an average annual snowfall of 312 inches, the majority of which falls between November and April. In the depth of winter, the city is so deeply covered that snow stands several meters high along the edges of its cleared roads. Aomori City’s incredible snowfall is the result of its unique geographical location between the Hakkoda Mountains and the shores of Mutsu Bay.

Colliding winds cause accelerated cloud formation, which then results in heavy precipitation that falls as snow rather than rain due to the city’s cold winter temperatures. Other than its extreme weather, Aomori City is known for the production of sake, seafood, and apples (the latter during its sunny, temperate summers). Every summer, the city also hosts the Nebuta Festival, which sees its streets lit up by parades of colorful lanterns. In winter, tourists come to take advantage of the snow at ski and snowboard resorts in the nearby mountains.

Aomori, Japan
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09 of 10

Muskegon, Michigan, United States

Muskegon, Michigan

Ed Reschke / Getty Images

Averaging 76 inches of snowfall each year, travelers are sure to find powdered flurries in Muskegon, Michigan in the wintertime. The town has become so synonymous with heavy snow each winter that it has gained a reputation as an excellent destination for winter sports like snowshoeing, ice skating and luge.

In the summertime, however, Muskegon transforms into a charming beach town filled with plenty of water activities. Just 40 minutes from Grand Rapids, the lakefront city brings in hoards of vacationers seeking the perfect place to canoe, kayak or swim in the sun.

Muskegon, MI, USA
10 of 10

Valdez, Alaska, United States

Valdez, Alaska

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At sea level, the town of Valdez, Alaska sees an average of 326 inches of snowfall each year, but those who want to see even more snow won't have to travel far. Thompson Pass, the 2,678 foot tall mountain pass located just outside the town of Valdez, has been known to see an incredible 500 inches of snow each year. In fact, Thompson Pass holds the record for Alaska's heaviest snowfall ever: in the winter of 1952-53, the mountain saw over 974 inches of snow.

Home to ample wildlife and stunning views, Valdez is worthy of a visit even for those who aren't seeking snow. The town is home to the largest tidewater glacier in Alaska, Columbia Glacier, as well as whale watching, river rafting, fishing, and more.

Valdez, AK, USA
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The 10 Snowiest Cities in the World