10 of the Snowiest Places on Earth
In anticipation of winter, here are the world's snowiest spots to visit.
Photo By: © iStockphoto/David Hansche
Photo By: Ryan Creary
Photo By: Alyeska Resort
Photo By: icenando; iStock
Photo By: Omni Mount Washington
Photo By: City of Sapporo
Photo By: Bud Vincent
Photo By: Visit Syracuse
Winter is Coming
We've rounded up 10 of the snowiest places in the world, and some of the entries on this list may surprise you.
Average snowfall: 50 feet
What to do: World-class Niseko United on Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, is considered the best ski resort in the country — no wonder due its massive annual snowfall. Four distinct resorts compose Niseko United, making it accessible to all levels of skiers and snowboarders. Between the four it’s possible to go snowmobiling, heli-skiing and cat-skiing (a cheaper version of heli-skiing that uses a snowcat instead of a helicopter to reach unskied, backcountry territory). The area’s many onsen, or hot spring pools, are equally famous, and equally needed after a day on the slopes.
Average snowfall: 36 feet
What to do: Nagano, Japan is best known as the former host of the 1998 Winter Olympics, and for its temples and snow monkeys. The Nagano region is home to more than 85(!) ski resorts, plus five Olympic venues in Nagano city. Then there’s the seventh-century Zenkoji Temple, considered one of Japan’s most famous Buddhist temples as it contains the country’s first Buddha statue. Visitors get to see the statue’s replica every six years, with the next viewing in 2021. But the main draw just might be the famous Japanese macaque snow monkeys, who enjoy a good onsen soak as much as the next guy. You’re most likely to find the wild troop in winter, and only at Jigokudani Monkey Park hot springs.
Average snowfall: 33 feet
What to do: Girdwood, which also goes by Alyeska, the Aleut spelling of Alaska, is anchored by Alyeska Resort, the state’s largest ski resort. All-level needs will be met here, from beginner runs to a freestyle park. It’s even possible to heli-ski in the Chugach Mountain Range with a one- or five-day package. Helicopter glacier hiking is another option, using crampons to explore caves and crevasses. This is also the place to take advantage of dog sledding and backcountry snowmobile rides. For something tamer, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails are available, or ride the Alyeska Aerial Tram in order to experience the views without navigating treacherous terrain. Decompress at the four-star Hotel Alyeska, an ideal spot for catching the northern lights, plus unwinding with spa treatments and yoga classes.
Average snowfall: 32 feet
What to do: This amount of snow naturally makes Chamonix, France in the Alps one of the world’s premier ski areas. This winter playground welcomes all levels, but experienced skiers and snowboarders come for the off-piste (unmarked trail) options. Adrenaline junkies can also try speed riding, a crazy combination of paragliding on skis. Regardless of one’s ski ability, the storybook village of Chamonix provides the perfect backdrop to unwind with cheese fondue and a glass of red wine.
Aomori City, Japan
Average snowfall: 26 feet
What to do: Located on Honshu Island, Aomori City holds the title of snowiest city in the world, and winter is the best time to take advantage of seafood (like scallops) at the Furukawa Fish Market. But Mt. Hakkoda is the main draw, attracting accomplished skiers and snowboarders to its uncrowded, backcountry terrain, ranking among the best in the world. It’s here that powder hounds will encounter the iconic “snow monsters,” snow-covered fir trees that are at their snow monstery best in January and February. (Although it’s possible to ski until May.)
Tip: Bunny slope types can view the snow monsters from the Hakkoda Ropeway gondola. Aomori is also the place to ride the two-car potbelly (aka stove) train with Tsugaru Railways, distinguished by a coal-oven stove in each carriage. It’s also worth visiting the region’s annual Yuki-Doro (Snow Lantern) Festival at Hirosaki Castle.
Mt. Washington, New Hampshire
Average snowfall: 23 feet
What to do: The Mt. Washington, New Hampshire area sports seven ski resorts, so opportunities abound whether your speed is enjoying snowy sleigh rides or climbing Mt. Washington. The affordably high-end Omni Mt. Washington Resort provides a good base for Bretton Woods, the state’s largest ski area, and a good place to start. Here you can go night skiing, snow tubing and cross country skiing, or try a three-hour, zipline canopy tour through the frosty landscape. The resort can also arrange guided tours for all levels, from ice climbing to the aforementioned Mt. Washington ascent. The latter is no joke as it takes about five hours to scale it, and another three down. We won’t judge if you prefer to park in front of the hotel's fireplace instead.
Average snowfall: 19 feet
What to do: As the capital of Hokkaido, Sapporo is famous for its beer, ramen and the annual Sapporo Snow Festival. The latter will be held Jan. 30-Feb. 11 in 2020, and feature more than 100 larger than life snow sculptures around the city, from traditional temples to Star Wars characters. And by larger than life, that means sculptures that span at least 50 feet high and 80 feet wide. The festival also includes more than 100 ice sculptures, found in the entertainment district. Visitors have to venture outside of the city for a family-zone section offering snow slides and snow rafting. Plan ahead, since the fest attracts more than two million people from around the world. You can also enjoy the area’s copious snowfall at Sapporo Teine Ski Resort, where it’s possible to ski two runs used during the 1972 Winter Olympics.
Average snowfall: 12 feet
What to do: Remote Akita, Japan is tucked away on Honshu Island, and the area is known for its winter festivals connected to the Lunar New Year. One of the most famous is Yokote no Yuki Matsuri, an annual celebration held every February in Yokote. This ancient tradition is marked by kamakura, small igloos containing altars to water deities, that are scattered around the town, with the most photogenic in front of Yokote Castle (pictured). Don’t leave before dark, when hundreds of small kamakura are illuminated along the Yokote River. The Paper Balloon Festival of Kamihinokinai in Semboku City is also held in February, where about a hundred illuminated paper balloons, often containing messages or wishes, are released into the night sky.
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Average snowfall: 10 feet
What to do: Montreal and Quebec City get the lion’s share of media attention, but a developing cultural scene exists in colorful St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, whose steep streets and foggy days are reminiscent of San Francisco. Summer is more hospitable than winter, but the latter just leaves more time to try the more than 300 restaurants, including trendy new additions, where locally sourced means that many dishes are locally foraged, fished and hunted. Seafood is also king here, where salt cod used to be a main export. Come night, compact George Street is where to head for bars, clubs and live music, and to experience the city’s Irish and Celtic influence. Turn in at the four-star JAG Hotel, which joined the scene in 2014.
Syracuse, New York
Average snowfall: 10 feet
What to do: Home to Syracuse University, this college town offers year-round activities. Winter means ice skating in Clinton Square, the historic city center, snowmobiling at Oneida Lake and partaking in winter sports (downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing) at nearby ski resorts and parks. Indoors, the city offers Destiny USA, a destination mall that’s so big, it has its own zip code. Beyond the mall you’ll find more than 20 breweries in the area, plus the original location of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, whose popular restaurants are now found across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Don't miss the ornate Landmark Theatre, found on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Everson Museum of Art for its collection of American artists.