Where is the SNOWIEST Place on Earth?

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Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Japan, 2014.
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Japan, 2014.

“Most people never realize that Japan is actually the snowiest place in the world.”  – Brandon Presser, Lonely Planet

Japan is the snowiest place on Earth.  It’s also one of the most fun places to visit on Earth.  We know for certain that Hakuba, Japan saw 600″ of snow in town in only 10 weeks in 2015.  We can’t even begin to image how much fell 6,000 feet above town in the high mountains…

If you haven’t been to Japan yet, it’s time to go. 

Japan gets the most snow in January and February and it’s simply non-stop…

When Is The Best Time to Ski & Ride Japan?

Japan, 2014. photo: miles clark/snowbrains
Japan, 2014. Photo: Miles Clark/SnowBrains

C’mon, it’s the snowiest place on Earth, why wouldn’t you wanna go?

“In the mountains of northern Japan, there is a place called Sukio-Onsen.  In a typical year, you’ll see 50-60 feet of snow, some years 70-80 feet of snow.  I’m talking snow that’s 10-15 above your head.” – Nick Wiltgen, Weather Channel meteorologist

Tateyama Korube Alpine Route
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Japan.

“The mountains of Japan are so snowy because they are susceptible to a cold Siberian wind that slams into the mountains of Japan, forces the air to rise, and that wrings out tremendous amounts of snowfall.  It’s like our lake effect snow in the US, but on a much bigger scale.” – Nick Wiltgen, Weather Channel meteorologist

The cold Siberian wind blows off Asia, picks up moisture on the Sea of Japan, slams into Japan’s mountains, and boom, you have big snow.  Credit:  Weather Channel

“Few people know it as the snowiest place on Earth. But that’s exactly what Sukayu Onsen, Japan is: 40-foot snow canyons, blinding blizzards, and the northernmost primates, Japanese snow monkeys.”  – Nick Wiltgen, Weather Channel meteorologist

Japan, 2013. photo: miles clark/snowbrains
Japan, 2013. Photo: Miles Clark/SnowBrains

Go to Japan, ski deep pow, eat great food, poke monkeys in hot springs with sticks, rip sick terrain, and get blown away by amazing culture.

Japan, 2014. photo: miles clark/snowbrains
Japan, 2014. Photo: Miles Clark/SnowBrains

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67 thoughts on “Where is the SNOWIEST Place on Earth?

  1. I seriously doubt that… Japan’s snow events are mainly driven by sea-effect snow, which is VERY variable. It can drop 1000 inches of snow one year and 300 the next. The Cascades get an insane amount of snow because of their proximity to the sea as well as the regular inflows of humid fronts that Japan lacks. Don’t want to say that Japan isn’t the snowiest place but… until I see trust worthy data I will stick to Mt. Baker.

    On a side note, Mt. Baker has the record for the snowiest season but Mt. Rainier (@ Paradise) was probably the station that got the most snow. I was told by the persons that collect the weather data up there that the station and the pass were closed for like 3 weeks and that they were unable to collect data for the three weeks. They even have a picture of the visitor center completely covered in snow, so much so you could can only see the chimney. Crazy!

  2. Supposedly the higher mountains of Japan average 1200″-1500″ of snow per year. But there are no stations taking measurements there. If this is true then Japan is snowier than Rainier and Baker.

  3. Snowiest place on earth? Cabo San Lucas in March. Blizzards from sun up on Medano Beach to sundown at the Ryu. Drifts of snow, street value in the billions.

  4. there are so many places where measurements just don’t happen…so record keepers and stat masters can only make claims based on available facts. Been to Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainer where many of these top snowfall amounts occur and in fact they are very impressive. How about just SKI area averages! Kirkwood, and Sugar Bowl, have had some very impressive 800+ inches a couple of times and average somewhere over 400+ inches a year. Personal experience and impressive amounts I have witnessed during winter backcountry excursions, include the ridges above Crater Lake and the upper elevations at Mount Shasta during big epic winters. Some of the mountain passes in northern and central California during big winters. Tioga and Sonora (closed in winter) to mention a couple, also huge accumalations and amounts of snow!

    1. The mountains NZ or Alaska of would be the most likely contenders for highest snowfall on the planet, with Chile next on the list. New Zealand has the highest official rainfall amongst temperate climates at 11600mm in a mountainous region that has glaciers extending into regions where snow doesn’t even fall.

  5. THIS IS NOT THE SNOWIEST PLACE ON EARTH. Paradise in Mt. Rainier National Park has accumulated as much as 93 feet of snow in one year. There are places in Washington State that are far snowier than this place in Japan. This article is INACCURATE and false.

      1. You sound like a snow snob. Japan is not the snowiest place on earth. If you were honest you’d have to say that you don’t know where the snowiest place is, no one knows truly. What we do know is that snow creates glaciers, so the best predictions we can make are by looking to the glaciers/ice fields. These are the places that will have be the snowiest.

  6. Hello all.

    I agree with the folks that say that the snowiest spot is unknown at this point. If I had to choose I’d say the St. Elias mountain range in Alaska. This range has both, the humidity, elevation as well as cold air in place for it to produce insane averages: glaciers don’t lie.

    The Japanese islands get a lot of what are commonly known as “multiple day dumps,” but the mountain ranges there lack the constant accumulations that the Alaska/British Columbia mountain ranges have. Check out Valdez in Alaska… the insane one-day accumulations mirror those in Japan, yet, Valdez gets 20-30% of the snow that the St. Elias ranges get.

    Years ago, I remember seeing a picture of a small valley near McCarthy that was completely made flat by the snow. I’m not talking about a glacial valley, I’m talking about a valley that had a height differential from trough to peak (eyeballing it) of about 600 feet, a few miles in length and about ½ in width completely covered/buried in snow. The picture was from the air. Has anyone else seen it?

  7. Snowiest locations on earth don’t have official snow measurements taken by humans…no one lives there. Based on research articles/reports I’ve read and personal communication with a university glaciologist, I’m estimating 1200-1500 inches of snow fall, on average, annually at these general locations: 1) Southern Patagonia Ice Field on border of Chile and Argentina. 2) Mountains on far northern Island of Japan (huge ocean-effect). 3) Southern Alps on southern island of New Zealand. 4) Coastal mountains southeast Alaska…Mt. Fairweather/Glacier Bay Nat’l Park/Preserve area down to coastal mountains of British Columbia. Note: I’m referring to average annual snowfall….not a one-time single deepest measured snow or the most measured snow in one winter season or any 12-month period. My gut feeling is the Southern Patagonia Ice Field is the snowiest location on earth. I’m a retired NWS meteorologist.

    As for Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker…snowiest spots on those mountains would be southern slopes between 7000 and 9000 ft elevation. When you get above 10,000 feet the colder air aloft holds less moisture. I’ve read the Baker Ski location and Paradise location on Rainier average some 650 to 675 inches per year…depending on source and years looked at. Does 1000 inches fall on average annually higher up at 7000 to 9000 ft?…I don’t know…anyone’s guess.

  8. St. Elias Range takes the cake for sure! I’ve been there twice for long expeditions. Check out some of the totals on http://www.mountain-forecast.com The orographic lift is insane the proximity to the ocean and the fact it’s the biggest non polar Icefield on earth should tell you something.

  9. It said over all the most snow. So it’s because multiple places in Japan have huge snow falls. Not just one place in Japan. People read first what it’s saying. It’s not saying for one single site, it’s for all the places in Japan with record snow fall every year.

  10. what i dont get is that Canada is a very cold place and it snows so much im from there thats why (Toronto)

  11. Blah blah blah Japan has lots of snow but most resorts are flat and slow chair lifts and crowded near Tokyo with school trips and heavy localism, no of piste with resort police patrolling it. And north Korea’s missiles regularly flying over head.

  12. As James and Matt Kinney’s comments imply, the snowiest place is the world is almost by definition heavily glaciated and inaccessible for daily measurements. I agree that it is likely in the area between Vancouver Island and the Chugach.

    For measured snowfall we have Sukayu Onsen in Japan with long term average 694.5 inches per Anonymous reference above. Note all but 30 of those inches fall between November and April, and 466.5 inches fall December-February due to the “lake effect” snowfall pattern. As Sukayu Onsen is only at 2,900 feet, it is likely there are greater snowfalls at higher elevations in Japan.

    In North America we have Mt. Rainier Paradise with long term average 680.5 inches, of which 59.1 inches occur May-October. https://wrcc.dri.edu/cgi-bin/cliMONtsnf.pl?wa6898 Paradise is at 5,400 feet, not far from what I’ve read is the optimal 7,000 feet for orographic uplift. So maybe it snows a little more higher up in Baker or Rainier. Since Alyeska averages 644 inches November-April at the top of its lift service at 2,750 feet, that makes a strong case for substantially more at the 7,000 foot level in the Chugach, St. Elias or northern Coast ranges of B.C.

    Here’s the one none of you may know about. In the Alps, most official weather stations are at/near resort levels with unimpressive snow totals. But there is one conspicuous exception, the Sonnblick Observatory in Austria at 10,184 feet. http://www.zamg.ac.at/fix/klima/oe71-00/klima2000/klimadaten_oesterreich_1971_frame1.htm (look under Daten, Salzburg, Sonnblick).
    Sonnblick averages 605 inches November-April, BUT gets another 287 inches May-October for a total average of 892 inches annual average snowfall. Sonnblick is permanently covered with a snowpack averaging a minimum of 110 inches in October and a maximum 327 inches in April.

    The western Japanese and western American mountains have a winter wet/summer dry climate. The Alps actually get more precipitation in summer and winter, and once you get up to 10,000+ feet some of the summer precipitation is still snow, and only in July/August is it majority rain.

  13. Awesome im stoked that you Americans think that your mountains and conditions are the best in the world…
    Hopefully that means that none of you need to venture out of the mighty U,S of A and can leave the rest of the “second rate” regions of the world like Japan to the rest of us Plebs!

    Good on ya!

  14. Let’s put all your opinions to rest. This is what the record books state. “The world record for the most snow in one year is now held by Mount Baker (elevation: 10,775 feet / 3,285 meters) in Washington State, USA. The Mount Baker Ski Area reported 1,140 inches (95 feet) / 2,896 cm (29 meters) of snowfall for the 1998-99 season.”
    Now we can all rest and stop bragging about “how snowy our mountains are.” Mt Baker beats you all.

    1. And – the ski hill is only at 4000ft. The ski area isn’t really even on Mt Baker it’s on a ridge connecting it to Mt Shuskan. If they had a station up at 6000-7000ft actually on Mt Baker they would likely be 25-50% more than what was reported down at the ski area.

  15. I believe Mt. Baker Washington holds the world record for snow. They had over 1,000 inches in 1992-1993 if I remember correctly. Other very snowy places are Crater Lake, OR which receives 600-700 inches of snow, and Paradise Ranger Station on Mt Ranier, which consistently gets 600-800 inches of snow every winter.

    1. No one has defined “the snowiest place”. Is it where there is human presence and buildings, like a ski resort or National Park lodge? Is it where snow is measured regularly during the winter? Or is it in remote mountains, like the Chugach in Alaska?

      Baker would only qualify if the “snowiest place” is where humans live or work on a daily basis. Otherwise, Baker wouldn’t come close. The Coast Mountains of British Columbia and Alaska would be the winner. But the snowiest places are remote and few people go there just to measure the snow depth.

  16. Their is a Difference between snowiest and most snow measured. First it takes decades of accurate measurements by certified people and scales. While most snow is arguable, it snows in Valdez more days of the year than anywhere mentioned above. It stays on the ground longer than anywhere. The ccombination of these two factors makes it the “snowiest”. Valdez has NWS records back to 1907. While Valdez is snowy Thompson pass averages 70O we think as the data has been spotty.

    The St Elias range above 10,000 feet is the king of the hill. It gets the most snow AND is the snowiest. It’s off the charts

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  18. The snowiest place on earth, as far as yearly averages are concerned, might not be the the snowiest place on earth in terms of record breaking yearly snows.
    When considering the snowiest location on the planet, the the place with the most snowfall is probably not going to be the place with the most snow accumulation. Now, I should point out that this is my own reprisal of the matter, based upon what I know about climate and weather. The snowiest location on earth in terms of both yearly accumulation averages and annual average snowfall averages, is likely to be somewhere in the coast ranges of British Columbia just to the south of the Alaskan panhandle, and north of Vancouver Island. It is here where all the ingrediants needed for persistant big time snows can be found. This region has plenty of mountainous terrain which causes oregraphic lift, is hit by many huge Pacific storms which are infused with rich subtropical moisture and is not so far to the north or south to be exposed to either so much cold dry air as to reduce precipitation rates, or warm air which would prevent accumulation or snow development all together. If this region is not on average the snowiest place on earth, then I am sure that ,that title goes to Montgomery Alabama, where even an inch of snow can shut down the entire city !

    1. Exactly. To me, when someone asks ” where is the snowiest place in the world”, I would say it is a place where it is snows the most time wise. Meaning a place where it snows the most days, hours, minutes, not so much the deepest. The question should be ” where is the snowiest accumulation in the world”. Ppl answering this question should look at what is actually being asked. To me this question is asking about snowing, actual snow falling, not snow accumulation, just my opine.

      1. I was heli skiing north of Devil’s thumb and I fell off the track in powder snow at least 50 feet. Once I reached the bottom I could see a bunch of guys that had built a village underneath the snow. They had been there since the beginning of the winter. There was a complex system of tunnels and dwellings, they even had a whole society figured out! It was insane. It was strange because they all seem to think it was the snowiest place on earth. Who the heck knows, right!

  19. Japan probably is the snowiest inhabited place on earth, though Valdez Alaska is right up there at over 300 inches/year, and it’s at sea level.

    For snowiest mountains, no way Baker or Rainier is snowier than the Southern Alps of New Zealand, the Fairweather and Saint Elias Mountains of Alaska, or the southern ice fields area of Patagonia.

      1. That applies to the ski areas on the drier eastern slopes. But the Fox and Franz Josef glacier névés on the western slopes receive over ten meters of precipitation per year. Most of that falls as snow. 1 mm of precipitation is 7 mm to 3 cm of snow. A conservative guess would be at least 30 m / 100 ft of snow per year. How else could glaciers reach down to almost sea level at a latitude of 43 degrees?

  20. Japan is snowy, not as much compared to Juneau ice fields. No solid data to support this but locals claim 1200”+ annually.. Just no town near by or access without plane or heli.

    1. You need to check your facts !! Juneau does not get much snow not even close to record breaking !!
      Valdez AK or Alyeska AK yes they get some good snow falls!

      1. Read before commenting. They didn’t say “Juneau”, they said “Juneau Ice Fields”. Big difference.

  21. I love that place…
    Japan is so cool
    And most advanced nation in the world…..

  22. No one mentioned the most probably snowiest place on earth. Not even Rainier can really claim this(mount baker probably gets a little more snowfall than Raineir). If there was an accurate way to measure any kind of snowfall from the most remote areas places in the fairweather range, various spots in the Southern Patagonia Icecap and maybe a few other areas like Pico Cristobal Colon in Colombia or Kangto in the eastern Himalayas, they would probably be the snowiest place in the word

  23. Not the snowiest place on earth. Mt rainier paradise side elevation between 5000′-8000′ is the snowiest place on earth. +670″ average annually and it also holds the record yearly snowfall of over 1200″

  24. There are places in the US that get more snow than that.

    I wish people stopped making sure matter-of-factly statements without checking first.

    1. Nope. Not even Mt. Baker in northern Washington gets 600″ in 10 weeks, like this place in Japan. They average 600″ a season. It’s the snowiest place in America, so you can easily check it yourself.

      1. First of all snowfall in an arbitrary period does not make one place snowier than another. The snowfall record for snow in a short period is in Colorado not on Mt Baker. Second places like Rainier and Baker are on a west coast so they get much more moisture and thus more annual snowfall than in Japan. Also keep in mind that Rainier is about 14500ft and the Ranger Station where the snow is measured is at the base at about 5000ft and on Baker it’s at 3500ft. Also snowier places than the southern Cascades exist, the northern Cascades. They get well over 1200″ in some places. Places in Alaska have gotten over 600″ in less than a week

    2. And, where in the US would that be? A quick check shows me that Mt. Rainier, WA receives 600 inches in an average year. That’s far less than the 70 ft. (840 inches) reported for this location in Japan.

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