Jack Frost does more than nip at noses in the world's snowiest places — he unleashes torrents of snow, annually dumping upwards of 56 feet in some spots.
Forecasters surmise that the world's snowiest regions are within the coastal mountains of British Columbia, Canada, and in southern Alaska above 3,000 feet. That said, these assumptions will remain just that for now, as no weather sites exist in these regions to take accurate measurements. With that in mind, we've collected a list of the world's snowiest places based on the greatest average annual snowfall.
Grab your hot cocoa and click through; it's gonna be a chilly ride.
10. Silver Lake, Brighton, Utah
Brighton in Utah's Silver Lake region averages 429 inches of snowfall annually. During the winter, Silver Lake is part of the Solitude Nordic Center's system of cross-country skiing trails. The lake is also circled by a boardwalk, and during warmer seasons, it makes for a scenic 30-minute hike around the perimeter.
9. Wolf Creek Pass, Colorado
Wolf Creek Pass sits high in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado at an elevation of 10,857 feet. It has annual average snowfalls totalling 436 inches. The pass is home to the Wolf Creek Ski Area, which, not surprisingly, receives more snow than any other ski resort in Colorado. The area includes 77 trails, including the Navajo Trail, a lengthy two-mile run.
8. Stampede Pass, Washington
Stampede Pass in Washington's Cascade Range gets 442 inches of annual average snowfall. It's a popular recreation spot. Visitors can head to Meany Lodge, operated by the non-profit Mountaineers. The resort features the longest rope tow west of the Rocky Mountains and no fewer than 32 downhill runs.
7. Tamarack, California
The community of Tamarack, Calif., sits at 6,913 feet and sees average annual snowfall totals of 445 inches. Visitors can explore Tamarack through a variety of winter activities, like cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and dog sledding. Check with the Sierra National Forest High Sierra Ranger District for road closures or accessibility issues before visiting.
6. Soda Springs, California
The small community of Soda Springs, Calif., is located just three miles from the infamous Donner Pass and 26 miles from Lake Tahoe. It sees an annual average snowfall of 471 inches. The town's major tourist attraction is the Soda Springs Ski Resort, often considered a low-cost, low-key alternative to Tahoe-area ski resorts.
5. Alta, Utah
Utah's tiny town of Alta may have a mere 383 residents, but it tips the scales with its massive 516-inch average annual snowfall. The excellent snowy conditions have made the town a popular ski destination, luring a half million visitors to its fabled powder each season.
Alta Ski Resort gained notoriety among snow sports enthusiasts for its ban on snowboarding; the move may seem exclusionary, but it has been a major selling point for ski purists visiting the mountain.
4. Crater Lake, Oregon
Crater Lake, located in Crater Lake National Park, is tied for fourth place on our list with 530 inches of average annual snowfall. The lake is known primarily for its stunning blue color and surrounding landscape but it's also recognized as one of North America's snowiest spots. The national park is open year-round, and in winter, visitors can explore the lake's surroundings by taking part in ranger-led snowshoe hikes, as well as cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.
4. Mt. Baker, Washington
Some of North America's deepest snowfall tallies occur in Washington state. With an annual average snowfall of 530 inches, Mt. Baker easily ranks as one of world's snowiest places. Located in the North Cascades, Baker is a thermally active volcanic crater, and second only to Mount Saint Helens in activity levels.
Mt. Baker has become a popular ski destination, and in particular, the Mt. Baker Ski Area. During the 1998 to 1999 season, more than 1,100 inches of snow fell, breaking a world record for seasonal snowfall.
3. Thompson Pass, Alaska
The 2,805-foot-high gap in Alaska's Chugach Mountains known as Thompson Pass records average annual snowfall totals of 552 inches. The spot also holds two records: the most snow to ever fall in one location in Alaska, in a season with 974.5 inches in the winter of 1952 to 1953; and Alaska's biggest single-day snowfall of 62 inches on December 29, 1955.
The Pass is kept open year-round, though keeping it accessible is an arduous task. Popular tourist activities in the region include heliskiing and snowboarding. Still, avalanches are common in the region, and each year tourists are killed. The Valdez Avalanche Center provides regular danger reports.
2. Paradise Rainier Ranger Station, Mt. Rainier, Washington
With average annual snowfalls of 680 inches, the Paradise Ranger Station in Mt. Rainier National Park ranks as North America's snowiest location, and the second snowiest spot on Earth. The ranger station once held a world record for greatest annual snowfall, totalling 1,224.5 inches between 1971 and 1972.
Paradise is the park's main winter-use area, and it's possible for visitors to go snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snow tubing from there. The road into Paradise remains plowed through the winter, though it's still wise to check road closures before planning a visit.
1. Japanese Alps, Honshu Island, Japan
Japan might not typically be associated with extreme snowfall, yet the Japanese Alps on Honshu Island rank as the snowiest place on Earth, with average annual snowfalls totalling 1,200 to 1,500 inches. These massive totals occur around the 2,000- to 6,000-feet levels, where it's not uncommon for snow depths to reach more than 465 inches.
In fact, monster snowfalls have become something of a tourist attraction here. A highway known as the Yuki-no-Otani Snow Canyon is kept open, cutting through the mountains and flanked on either side by snow walls more than 30 feet high.
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Why are so many of the world's snowiest places in North America's Pacific Northwest?
The relatively mild Pacific Northwest experiences west-to-east weather patterns; storms strike the region frequently and winter happens to be the wettest season.
After air travels across the Pacific Ocean, it hits the coast filled with moisture, and encounters the Cascade Mountains. The air is forced up the range where it quickly cools down and drops the moisture.
Still, questions remain: what about snowfall on ranges that would seem to experience extraordinary totals, like the Himalayas, Alps or Andes? Many of these regions do not have measurement devices in place to gather reliable data.
Gathering snowfall data is a tricky business; complications include snowflakes drifting in the wind and snow collecting and freezing on the rim of the collection container, which prevents complete accumulation. Some devices are believed to collect only 20 percent of snowfall.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) will be deploying new and hopefully improved snow gauges at 15 spots across the globe, however it will miss a number of important snowfall regions, including the Himalayas.