The Top 10 Coldest U.S. States

Snow Storm Vermont
iStock.com/steverobertsphotography

Written by Volia Schubiger

Published: December 16, 2022

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A large country such as the United States has a diverse climate because of the different geographical regions it occupies. Florida has a tropical climate, Alaska has a subarctic climate, Arizona has a semi-arid climate, and the mountains of Colorado have an alpine climate. It’s not uncommon to find desert regions in one region and snow-capped mountains in another throughout the United States. This results in some pretty cold areas within the United States that you might be interested in exploring. Curious to find out what the top 10 coldest U.S. states are? Let’s find out! 

This information is derived from the NOAA National Climatic Data Center of the United States, which has been collecting data on the temperatures in each of the fifty states of the United States for the past four decades.

1. Alaska

An aerial view of Lituya Bay, Alaska

The average annual temperature in Alaska is 26.6°F, making it the state with the coldest temperatures.

Our list of the coldest states in the country starts with Alaska. It should come as no surprise that Alaska is the coldest state in the country, considering everything we know about it. Being in North America’s extreme northwest corner, Alaska is closer to the North Pole than any other state. While Alaska’s winters are lengthy and icy, its summers are cold and mostly cloudy. Alaska’s average temperature is 26.6°F (-3.0°C) and can go as low as -30°F (-34°C) during the winter months. There’s a strong connection between ocean currents and the severe weather patterns in Alaska. In the interior portions of Alaska, temperatures are extremely cold because of strong cold winds coming from northern Canada and Siberia.

2. North Dakota

Fargo North Dakota

With an average snowfall of 49.3 inches per year, Fargo, North Dakota is the town that receives the most snowfall in the state.

Since it resides at the farthest end of the Midwest region of the United States, North Dakota is among the coldest states in the nation. In North Dakota, you will find a continental climate with very hot summers and bitterly cold winters. As a result, North Dakota’s terrain is almost entirely flat and sparsely vegetated. In fact, the wind is a major feature of North Dakota, ranking among the top three states for windy days. There are fifty days below freezing on average in the winter in North Dakota, with an average annual temperature of 40.4°F. Even so, the icy conditions are perfect for ice skating and snowmobiling if you happen to enjoy winter activities.

3. Maine

Blizzard conditions

Among Maine’s most popular winter sports are downhill skiing and snowboarding.

Lobsters aren’t the only thing Maine is known for! In fact, this state is the third coldest in the country with an average annual temperature of 41°F (5°C). Winters in this area are known to be particularly harsh. In Maine, the summers are hot and wet, and the winters are long and severely cold. Winters are colder in the state’s northern and western portions, while Atlantic Ocean temperatures moderate those along its coast. Maine receives an average of 50 to 70 inches of snow per year along the coast and 60 to 110 inches inland. So if you happen to love the idea of jumping into frigid waters, then Maine may just be the state for you to visit!

4. Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minnesota

A typical year for Minneapolis, or the “Twin Cities,” brings 52 inches of snow.

Due to its location in the Upper Midwest region of the country and the proximity of Lake Superior to its northeastern side, Minnesota has a very temperate climate. In the northern portion of Minnesota, Lake Superior plays an important role in regulating the temperature. During winter, Minnesota experiences cold temperatures that are often below freezing. During the winter, snow is the most common type of precipitation, with freezing rain, ice, sleet, and rain also occurring occasionally. Around the northern parts of Minnesota, temperatures can fall as low as -30°F (-34°C) in January. Overall, Minnesota experiences an average temperature of 41.2°F (5.1°C).

5. Wyoming

Winter in Wyoming offers something for everyone, whether it’s sleigh rides or backcountry skiing.

Wyoming has the fifth-coldest average temperature in the country, at 42.0°F (5.6°C). As a semi-arid and continental climate region, Wyoming experiences a warm summer and a cold winter season with dry, northern air. This state is more susceptible to seasonal temperature changes due to its topography, which is a factor that greatly influences its climate. There is an average snowfall of about 200 inches in the state’s highland and mountainous regions, while there is an average snowfall of about 50 inches in the lowlands. There are also some areas of the state where temperatures are quite warm due to the Chinook winds. In the mountains, these kinds of winds occur when warm air has lost its moisture on the downward slope.

6. Montana

Snow in Montana

The skiing and snowboarding slopes in Montana are world-class.

Natural beauty, some of the world’s most diverse wildlife, and a wealth of natural resources are among Montana’s most notable attributes. It is also, not surprisingly, one of the top 10 coldest states in the U.S. In fact, it is the sixth-coldest U.S. state is Montana, where the average temperature is 42.7°F (5.9°C). A great deal of Montana’s climate can be attributed to its topography. Throughout eastern Wyoming, there are plains, badlands, and isolated mountain ranges with a semi-arid continental climate and harsh winters. As a result of the Continental Divide, the less humid oceanic air cannot flow eastwards and the drier continental air cannot move westwards. A cool summer climate and mild winters characterize the region west of this divide because of this. 

7. Vermont

Snow in North Vermont

With 89.25 inches of snow per year, Vermont receives the most snowfall among all the states.

Its charming small towns, gorgeous fall foliage, and delicious maple syrup make Vermont one of the most beautiful states in the country. In addition, it is also one of the coldest states in the country as well. Although the summers are quite mild, the winters are quite snowy. It’s mainly the cold winds from the Arctic regions that make Vermont so cold in the winter. The state of Vermont also has the largest amount of snowfall in the country, measuring around 89.25 inches per year.

8. Wisconsin

winter landscape

Wisconsin has an average temperature of 43.1°F (6.2°C).

The state of Wisconsin, also known as “America’s Dairyland,” is famous for producing cheese in large quantities. Moreover, snowmobiling is one of the fun activities that many Wisconsin natives enjoy. Wisconsin has an average temperature of 43.1°F (6.2°C), making it the eighth coldest state in the country. Since Lake Superior and Lake Michigan border the state, winters in the state are long, cold, and snowy. In northern and western Wisconsin, several parts experience a snowfall of more than 160 inches a year. In contrast, the rest of the state receives about 40 inches of snow each year. During January, the temperatures are the coldest in the entire year, with an average low of 14°F and a high of 28°F on average. It is best to travel to this state between mid-June and early September when the weather is most conducive to outdoor activities.

9. New Hampshire

Mount Carrigan

New Hampshire’s summers are marked by warm wet weather, while the winters are icy and snowy.

It tends to be pretty cold in New Hampshire during the winter. In New Hampshire, you’ll find a humid continental climate that’s marked by summers that are warm and wet and winters that are cold and snowy. As arctic winds blow in from Canada, cold fronts are more powerful in the northern parts of New Hampshire. Compared to the northern part of the state, the southeastern part of the state experiences milder winters due to the Atlantic Ocean. New Hampshire gets particularly cold, but there are plenty of fun winter activities to enjoy. Get a taste of winter with a horse-drawn sleigh ride or some snow tubing!

10. Michigan and Idaho

Cross country skiing in Michigan

Cross-country skiing is a popular winter activity in Michigan.

We’ve reached the end of our list with both Michigan and Idaho. A lot of Michiganders enjoy all four seasons, but winter can be especially brutal. The entire state of Idaho experiences winter weather, including ice and snow, wind, and freezing temperatures. No tropical hideaway awaits you here, so don’t expect to find one. The average temperature in both Michigan and Idaho is 44.4°F (6.9°C). This means it gets pretty cold during the winter. The northern, eastern, and central regions of Idaho receive heavy snowfall, while the southern regions receive milder temperatures. December marks the beginning of Michigan’s winter, which lasts until mid-March. Due to the state’s abundance of snowfall, ice fishing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing are popular winter activities.


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About the Author

Volia Schubiger is a freelance copywriter and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding, and marketing. She has a background in Broadcast Journalism & Political Science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When she's not writing she loves traveling, perusing used book stores, and hanging out with her other half.

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