The United States is a huge country with a wide variety of climates. Many of the largest cities in the US get plenty of snow each year. These cities become playgrounds for people who love the snow each year. But which ones get the most? Some of the answers might surprise you!
1. The Number One Snowiest City in the US: Syracuse, NY
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the snowiest city in the United States is in the northern quadrant. That is where it is coldest in the winter. However, Syracuse, NY, has another factor contributing to its high snowfall footage: The Lake Effect. In fact, the top four snowiest cities all have the lake effect. Whether or not they suffer or benefit from it depends on how much you like snow!
The lake effect occurs when a mass of cold air moves over a warmer lake. For the lake effect to take hold, the lake has to be fairly large. The mass of air absorbs warmer moisture from the lake as it rises. The moisture freezes and then falls as snow or ice in nearby lakes.
Syracuse, NY, receives, on average, 127.8 inches of snow, which is around 11 feet. They get the lake effect from Lake Ontario, one of the Great Lakes in North America. The number 2, 3, and 4 cities on this list also get their lake effect from a Great Lake.
The worst lake effect snowstorm in Syracuse happened in 1946. Over 30 inches of snow fell on the city in one day, setting a record that still hasn’t been beaten. However, The two-day record was beaten by a huge winter storm in March 1993. In just 2 days, 42 inches of snow fell. In that year, 1993, Syracuse received over 200 inches of snow total, setting a record for the most snow falling in one calendar year.
2. Erie, PA
Erie, PA, receives an average of 104.3 inches of snow annually, more than 8 feet. Its weather is affected by nearby Lake Erie. This lake is the only Great Lake that often freezes over in the winter. However, when the ice melts or when it doesn’t freeze over, there is the potential for the lake effect to create massive snowstorms. In addition to the lake effect, Erie is also perfectly positioned to receive Nor’easters and Alberta Clippers, two other types of winter storms that can dump snow in the region.
Erie’s highest record for one day of snow was 34 inches on Christmas Day in 2017. It blasted the previous record of 20 inches from 1956 off the chart. The next day, it snowed another 24.5 inches. This also created a new 2-day record of 58.5 inches. In 2008 they had their snowiest year on record. That year, Erie received 165.7 inches!
3. Rochester, NY
Rochester, NY, is also close to the shores of Lake Ontario and receives plenty of snow from the lake effect. They are right up there with Erie at 102 inches of snow on average per year.
It’s reported that on March 1, 1900, almost 30 inches of snow fell on the city. In recent years, the highest one-day snowfall in Rochester was 23 inches on January 3, 1999. 1959 was the city’s snowiest year on record, with more than 150 inches of snow falling there.
4. Buffalo, NY
Buffalo, NY, is a snowy city where buffalo chicken wings were first invented. Buffalo is also affected by the lake effect, as it is right on Lake Erie and just south of Lake Ontario. Experts estimate that over half of the city’s snow is from the lake effect.
On December 10, 1995, Buffalo received over 30 inches of snow in just one day. Even though the city is well equipped to handle snow, this storm shut down the city. The greatest snowfall in one year happened in 1977, when over 170 inches of snow fell over the course of that year.
5. Boulder, CO
Boulder, CO, is well known for beautiful mountain vistas and close access to Rocky Mountain National Park and other natural wonders for nature lovers. Like Denver, the city is at a high altitude of almost one mile, and many of the surrounding communities are tucked into the mountains. The city gets an average of 92.8 inches of snow each year.
There was one epic day in 1921 when Boulder saw 76 inches of snow. The winter between 2019 and 2020 was reportedly the snowiest winter ever for the city, and more than 150 inches of snow fell. That year, for much of the winter, Boulder was the snowiest city in the country!
6. Flagstaff, AZ
You might be surprised to see a city in Arizona on the list of snowiest places in the US, but here it is. Flagstaff is a gateway city for the Grand Canyon and other nearby natural features. Due to its elevation at over 6,000 feet high and special geographic conditions unique to the area, over 90 inches of snowfall here on average each year. That is why while it is raining in Phoenix, 150 miles away, it can be snowing in Flagstaff.
Flagstaff’s snowiest day in history happened pretty recently. On February 21, 2019, 35.9 inches fell, setting a new record. It shouldn’t be any surprise that Flagstaff is Arizona’s snowiest city!
7. Anchorage, AK
Most people associate Alaska with plenty of snow, ice, and all sorts of winter things. However, it is not the snowiest state. So, Anchorage squeaks an entry onto the list of snowiest cities with an average of 77.9 inches per year. It snows at least 0.1 inches at least 48 days per year on average. When it does snow, it can stick around for months on the ground due to the cold temperatures.
On March 17, 2002, the city received a record amount of 22 inches of snow in one day. The snowiest year on record was 1955, with 171.6 inches of snow.
Honorable Mention – The Snowiest Places in the United States: Mount Rainier and Mount Baker
The snowiest places in the US are not cities. They are often remote places with weather stations that allow these extreme weather conditions to be recorded. Both Mount Rainier and Mount Baker in Washington state receive an average of 645 inches of snow each year. That is more than 50 feet! Both mountains are in the Cascade Mountain Range.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Michal Balada/Shutterstock.com
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is the snowiest city in the US?
The snowiest city in the US is Syracuse, NY.
How much does it snow per year in Syracuse, NY?
It snows an average of 127.8 inches in Syracuse, NY each year.
What is the snowiest place in the US?
Mount Rainier and Mount Baker are tied for the snowiest place in the US. They both receive 645 inches of snow each year.
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- Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_snowiest_places_in_the_United_States_by_state
- Snow Brains, Available here: https://snowbrains.com/boulder-snowiest-winter-ever/
- US Dept. of Commerce National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Weather Service, Available here: https://www.weather.gov/ctp/SnowStormTypes