PARADISE, located at an elevation of 5420′ in Mt. Rainier National Park, ranks #1 for snowfall with average annual snowfall of 671 inches or 1704 cm. Paradise’s title as the snowiest place in the U.S is based on the latest 30 year snowfall and snow depth data released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the 1981-2010 period. The ski resort that came out on top was ALTA, UT by averaging 546″ of snowfall annually during that period. Rounding out the top 5 snowfall leaders were Crater Lake in OR, Brighton, UT and Echo Summit, CA. Notably missing from the ranking is Mt. Baker, the official record holder for most snowfall ever measured in the U.S. in a single season: 1,140 inches during the 1998-99 snowfall season. NOAA states that this is also the world record (based on verifiable data). So, we suspect that this King of Snow (and perhaps others) didn’t make the list below due to insufficient data over the required 30 yr period. With an average snowfall of 701 inches (1781 cm) in recent years (>800″ last season and >850″ the season before), Mt. Baker and its Ski Area will surely be on the list next time around. By the way, the previous U.S. seasonal snowfall record was 1,122 inches, set during the 1971-1972 snowfall season by, you guessed it: Mt. Rainer’s Paradise station.
In prior periods, our own Snoqualmie Pass with average annual 504 inches from 1948 to 1972 and Stevens Pass with 493″ from 1950 to 1994 were among the top snowfall leaders. Check out our video below from last season’s deep day at Snoqualmie’s Alpental area to see what we get. And pretty often too since heavy snowfalls normally hit the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. NOAA explains it as the result of several factors: Winter is our wettest season, storms flow west-to-east hitting the Pacific Northwest every few days, moisture from the Pacific is forced to ascend the Cascade Range and drop abundant precipitation, freezing levels average about 4,000 ft in the winter, so near this altitude snowfall amounts increase very rapidly with just small increases in elevation. But I digress…Here are the snowfall leaders for the last 30 yr period:
Paradise also came in 1st for most days with fresh snow: 121.4 days to be exact, the highest average number of days/year with at least 0.1 inches (0.25 centimetres) of snowfall. Let’s not forget, that flanking Mt. Rainier on either side are the ski resorts Crystal Mountain and White Pass which are known for their consistent snowfall.
The above rankings are based on the nearly 6400 National Weather Service stations reporting snowfall and 5300 stations reporting snow depth in the U.S. NOAA uses that data to compute snowfall and snow depth “normals” – defined as the 30-year average. NOAA’s computation of climate Normals is in accordance with the recommendation of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), of which the U.S. is a member. The WMO mandates each member nation to compute 30-year averages of meteorological quantities at least every 30 years (1991 – 2020, etc.). To read the best analysis and summary of NOAA’s snowfall data set and see these tables in their original context, go to Liz Osborn’s story.