10 of the Snowiest Places on the Planet

Snowy small town under a bright sun
Photo: kckate16/Shutterstock

When winter hits and snow threatens, we can fear having to shovel the occasional sidewalk or scrape off a windshield. But while most of us only have to worry about snow for a few months and maybe only a few inches, there are places in the world where residents know they'll be dealing with massive amounts of icy precipitation that can seem like its endless.

For example, Shirakawa-go in Japan, shown here, gets an average of about 400 inches (1,000 cm) each winter. Doesn't make your driveway look so bad now, does it?

And when it comes to weather, it can be difficult to name the snowiest from one year to the next. Here we've curated a selection of places — from Japan to Canada, Alaska to France — around the world that have shoveled their way onto our list of some of the snowiest places on Earth.

1
of 10

Mount Washington, New Hampshire

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Proudly calling itself the "Home of the World's Worst Weather," the Mount Washington Observatory in New Hampshire averages a total of 255.98 inches (650.2 cm) of snow each year, according to New Hampshire Magazine.

Mount Washington is located in "a perfect trifecta of three weather fronts," says Onboard. "Atlantic weather fronts meet with Gulf winds and Pacific Northwest fronts, before they’re rocketed skywards by the sheer vertical rise of the range."

And it's not just the snow. Hurricane winds whip through Mount Washington's peaks for an impressive 110 days a year. Because of the winds, the snow doesn't stay around, usually getting blown into nearby ravines.

2
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Aomori City, Japan

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Nestled between Aomori Bay, Mutsu Bay and the Hakkōda Mountains, Aomori City gets walloped with an average 300 average inches (762 cm) of snow a year, due to its location in relation to the ocean and its high elevation in the mountains, says Conde Nast Traveler.

The city's name translates to mean "blue forest," because of the oceans and lakes that surround the lush greenery — when it isn't covered in snow, that is.

3
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St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

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St. John's is the capital and largest city in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. According to Conde Nast, the city gets an average of 132 inches (335 cm) of snow every year, which lasts until late April.

The oldest and most eastern city in North America also has a reputation as the windiest, foggiest and cloudiest of main Canadian cities.

4
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Valdez, Alaska

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The snowiest city in the United States according to the Weather Channel, Valdez gets about 314 inches (798 cm) of snow per year. Surrounded by the Chugach Mountains, the snow and terrain make this wintry city a favorite for outdoor sports fans. Enthusiasts head here for heli-skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, ice climbing, fat biking riding and cross-country skiing.

5
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Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

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The Paradise area at Mount Rainier National Park (elevation of 5,400 feet) in Washington state is known for its snowfall. According to the National Park Service, the area once had the world record for measured snowfall in a single year. In the 1971 to 1972 season, an impressive 1,122 inches of snow (28.5 meters) fell in Paradise.

As Onboard explains it, the Pacific Northwest has a "golden equation" when it comes to snow systems. "The Gulf of Alaska, farther to the west, creates huge storms that are added to by a system called Cyclogenesis, which intensifies them. These huge low-pressure systems are then carried along by the jet stream that then carries them eastward. As it’s carried eastward, it hits the warm air of the lower mountains which then means the mother of all weather systems then hits the higher peaks in Washington and Oregon."

The result is lots and lots of snow.

6
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Shirakawa-go, Japan

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The historic village of Shirakawa-go is a mountain town known for its steep forests and traditional farmhouse building style known as gasshō-zukuri, with thatched roofs built to withstand heaps of snow. With a name that translates into "White River Village," according to Smithsonian, the town gets a remarkable 415 inches (10.5 meters) of snow each year.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shirakawa-go celebrates the snowy landscape in winter by organizing illumination events in January and February that attract tourists to see the traditional homes lit up in the snow.

7
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Saguenay, Quebec, Canada

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Called a snowmobiler's paradise, Saguenay is of one Canada's snowiest cities, receiving an average of 132 inches (336 cm) each year. Saguenay is located 200 miles west of the capital of Quebec City and is a relative newcomer, only established in 2002 as a merger between municipalities and cities, including Chicoutimi, Jonquière and La Baie.

8
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Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan

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Famous for producing the well-known Japanese beer, Sapporo is also known for being one of the Earth's snowiest cities. With an annual snowfall of about 191 inches (485 cm), the city is home to nearly 2 million residents and a yearly snow festival each February. The festival, which is famous for its massive snow-sculpture building contest, attracts 2 million tourists and features more than 200 snow and ice sculptures during the event.

Attending the festival? Organizers warn that it will be cold and the ice and snow will be very slippery. "You should wear at least three layers of clothes to keep you warm outside. Typically this means: thermal underwear, a sweater and a thick overcoat or a proper winter garment such as ski jacket. A knitted hat or ear-warmers and gloves are also recommended."

9
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Chamonix, France

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Although it's hard to find a true "winner" because of record-keeping issues, this French town in the Alps gets the most snow in Europe, at least according to Live Science. In 2016, for example, Chamonix received an impressive 312 inches (792 cm) of snow. The town, which sits in the shadow of Mont Blanc, was the site of the first Winter Olympics in 1924 and is now a popular destination for skiing and other winter sports.

10
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Houghton and Hancock, Michigan

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Houghton and Hancock are across from each other on the narrow end of Portage Lake on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan. According to the Weather Channel, these cities in the Great Lakes Snowbelt get an impressive 90.5 days of snow each year, resulting in more than 200 inches (500 cm) of snow annually. Because of all that winter precipitation, the towns are popular destinations for snowmobiling, skiing and other outdoor sports.