Some travelers start dreaming about booking an island vacation the moment the temperature drops. Then there are those who embrace the cold temperatures, with all-day skiing and hikes in powdery winter wonderlands. If you’re dreaming of snowball fights and sledding, book a trip to one of these destinations that see the most snowfall in the country.
This year, Erie is in the lead so far in the unscientific but fun Golden Snowglobe competition charting the snowiest cities in the U.S. This Pennsylvania town near the Great Lakes regularly gets 100 inches of snow a year, and on Christmas day in 2017, Erie broke records with a storm that dumped more than four feet of snow.
Where to stay: Stay right downtown on Erie’s “Millionaires Row,” where one of the stately Victorians is now home to Erie’s first bed and breakfast. The circa-1876 building that houses Spencer House Bed and Breakfast features 12-foot ceilings and ornate details, and offers rooms with private baths.
What to do: You’ve seen sand dunes, but snowy Erie is home to ice dunes. Presque Isle Bay off Lake Erie is the place to see ice peaks frozen on the lakeside beach, but admire from afar because it’s dangerous to walk on the hollow ice dunes.
For snow sports, there’s skiing and snow tubing at nearby Mount Pleasant of Edinboro (which makes snow if it’s not coming down). Or you can go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing at Asbury Woods park, complete with clinics for newbies. Another option on a snowy day: trek through downtown Erie checking out all the public art on a Sculpture Walk, then get a warm drink at Romolo Chocolates.
Where to stay: A red clapboard house is where you’ll find Caribou’s homey The Old Iron Inn Bed and Breakfast, decorated inside with vintage clothing irons. There are three rooms with private baths to choose from at this European style B&B, each of which comes with a freshly-made breakfast each morning.
What to do: Travelers make the long journey to Caribou’s Aroostook county’s light pollution-free skies to see the Aurora Borealis. Snowmobiling and ice fishing are also popular winter activities, or you can downhill ski in nearby Big Rock Mountain. Try to time your visit to watch the mushers at the Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Race.
Grand Canyon-adjacent Flagstaff is also a destination for the white stuff: this Northern Arizona town has been known to get more than 100 inches of snow a year. Last year, only 90.1 inches of snow rained down on Flagstaff, but that’s still more than enough to make this city located 7,000 feet above sea level a draw for wintery fun.
Where to stay: The Little America Hotel Flagstaff boasts its own ponderosa pine forest with hiking trails, and inside, the hotel is done up with a bit of Western flair. You can even splurge on a fireplace suite to stay cozy while the snow is coming down outside.
What to do: Go cross-country skiing or even fat tire biking at Arizona Nordic Village, or hit the slopes at Arizona Snowbowl. The area’s also known for craft breweries, if you want to blow off steam after a snowball fight.
Located less than an hour from Salt Lake City, Alta’s nestled in the Wasatch Mountain Range. That’s important for snow lovers, because the atmospheric conditions lead to frequent snowstorms — and powder that’s beloved by skiers. Dubbed one of the snowiest places in the country with an average of over 500 inches of snow a year, Alta once broke records for getting 45 inches of snow in 24 hours.
Where to stay: A former World War II nurse’s barracks is the home of all-inclusive ski outpost Alta Peruvian Lodge. This handsome lodge offers big windows with beautiful views, nightly movies in the lobby, and a heated pool and hot tub for post-ski recovery.
What to do: Alta’s motto is “Come for the skiing. Stay for the skiing.” Snowboarding isn’t allowed at the resort, and this ban even ended up in federal appeals court. One of the oldest ski resorts in the country, it’s famous for that fluffy powder and steep slopes, although the resort says that less than half of the runs are suitable for less-advanced skiers. There are even tours devoted to skiing with naturalists and birders here.
Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
This town located between Lake Superior and Lake Huron is one of the snowiest places in Michigan, and that’s saying something. Sault Ste. Marie once was dubbed “the nation’s snow capital” and in 1995, the annual snowfall topped 200 inches after a massive five-day snowstorm dumped 62 inches.
Where to stay: The very old-school Hotel Ojibway near downtown Sault Ste. Marie dates back to 1927, overlooking the historic Soo Locks. The pet-friendly hotel once played host to President George H. W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush.
What to do: Hardy folks enjoy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the wilderness here, and snowmobiling is big too. There’s even lantern-lit snowshoeing for the really adventurous. The town’s tourism board recommends winter as an ideal time to see the Tahquamenon Falls, where the tannin-enriched, root beer-colored rapids really stand out against the frozen landscape.
Syracuse, New York
Lake effect snow from the Great Lakes puts chilly Syracuse in the running for snowiest big city in the state of New York and in the entire country. According to Farmer’s Almanac, Syracuse averages more than 120 inches of snow annually.
Where to stay: Hotel Skyler Syracuse near Syracuse University occupies a grand, circa-1922 former synagogue turned LEED Platinum-certified hotel. This Tapestry Collection by Hilton boutique hotel includes quirky rooms, like a “Treehouse” two-level loft decorated with sculptural trees or a suite in the eaves of the building.
What to do: Cold weather traditions in downtown Syracuse revolve around skating at the beautiful Clinton Square ice rink, which looks like it’s right out of a snow globe. Song Mountain is an option for skiing, or kids can go tubing at the Four Seasons Golf & Ski Center. Syracuse tries to embrace those freezing temps in February with an annual Winterfest carnival.
Mount Washington, New Hampshire
The Northeast’s highest peak naturally gets a lot of snow: according to Weatherbug, Mount Washington usually gets 97 inches of precipitation a year and much of that is snow. The windy peak is also home to some of the most extreme weather conditions in the world, rivaling Mount Everest.
Where to stay: Check in to the Omni Mount Washington Resort, built in 1902 as a grand hotel for Boston’s upper crust. Its red roof silhouetted against snowy mountains make this an icon, and the luxury hotel recently underwent a stunning renovation to bring it into 2021. After winter exploring, hit the top-notch spa with hot tubs and heated outdoor and indoor pools.
What to do: If you’re not an experienced climber up for trekking unpredictable Mount Washington in winter, take the Cog Railway, which still operates throughout the White Mountains in the winter. This historic train provides stops for sweeping views of the snowy skyline and complimentary hot drinks as well. Besides Nordic skiing, tubing, snowshoeing, and alpine skiing, winter activities in the Omni Mount Washington’s Bretton Woods include sleigh rides and even zipline tours over the white-covered treetops.
Mount Rainier, Washington
Mount Rainier National Park’s Paradise area has a strong claim for the snowiest place on Earth where snow is regularly recorded, according to the National Parks Conservation Association. This national park averages more than 640 inches of snowfall a year, and in the winter of 1971-1972, an amazing 1,122 inches of snow fell.
Where to stay: Take in amazing views of Mount Rainier from the National Park Inn, located in the forest of Longmire. There are 25 rooms in this rustic, historic inn, along with a dining room, lounge, and gift shop.
What to do: The hardiest snow-loving outdoorsy folk can go for winter camping. Other options in the Rainier area include snowshoe walks with rangers, visits to the Paradise Sledding Area, and skiing or snowboarding. You can even watch animals gather for winter feeding of elk and bighorn sheep.
This town surrounded by Alaska’s Chugach Mountains is said to be the snowiest place in America and one of the snowiest sea-level places on earth. Valdez gets a whopping 300 inches of snowfall or more each year, and in 2017, a record-breaking 10 inches of snow fell down in just one hour.
Where to stay: The new Totem Hotel and Suites is a more sleek and minimal take on Alaskan design, with clean lines (and mounted mooseheads). Opt for a king or queen room, a business suite, or one of 10 cabins.
What to do: Tourists head to this very snowy place in the summer for glacier cruises. In the winter, the attraction shifts towards Northern Lights spotting, fat tire biking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and more extreme snow adventures — like helicopter skiing or ice climbing on ice falls.
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