If you’re adventuring around the world with a thirst for winter sports, you’ll want to seek out the snowiest places on Earth.
Global warming is real. According to the World Meteorological Organization, 11 of the 12 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001. 2012 is expected to be the 9th warmest year on record, cooler than expected only because of La Niña. This trend does not bode well for those of us who like to hit the slopes. But not all hope is lost. There are a few mountains on earth where the snow falls and falls, providing fresh natural pow when other ski areas rely on the man-made stuff.
These are the 7 snowiest places on Earth.
Mt. Baker, Washington
In 1999, Mount Baker set the world record for most snowfall in a single season, receiving 1,140 inches of the white fluffy stuff. 1999 was an atypical year, though the mountain, an active volcano, regularly features some of the highest average snowfall in the United States, if not the most snow in the world. In 2011-12, the mountain received 808 inches, beating out Alta, Ut., regularly viewed as the snowfall capital of the U.S., by 80 inches. For consistent, awesome fluff, don’t sleep on the High Cascades.
Japan gets “firehosed” by cold winds and moisture swooping south from Siberia, making the volcanic islands an ideal if under-appreciated (and expensive) destination for skiers and snowboarders. Sapporo, on the northern island of Hokkaido, is the snowiest major metropolitan area on earth, with a population of just under 2 million and annual snowfall rates reaching nearly 250 inches per year. Of course it’s the pristine “Japanese Alps” where the snow really piles high. Ideal conditions are almost always found at Niseko, which receives an average snowfall of 595 inches per year and was named the second snowiest ski resort in the world by Forbes Traveler. But for a more emotional display of Japanese snowfall amounts, just check out some photos of the Yuki-no-Otani Snow Canyon in Toyama prefecture.
Warth, Schröcken, & Damüls, Austria
Europe doesn’t get the snowfall totals received in other parts of the world such as the Americas and Japan. That’s due in part because Europe’s mountain ranges generally stretch east to west, rendering them incapable of fully exploiting the weather systems that usually fly in the same direction. Still, reliable snow falls in Europe, especially upon a the westernmost mountains in Austria, where the resorts average more than 410 inches per year. That makes this locale the snowiest place in Europe.
Southern Patagonia Ice Field, Argentina & Chile
The jury is still out on the snowiest place in South America. Some say it’s an 18,000 foot volcano in Colombia, Nevado del Huila. Others say it’s Las Araucarias in central Chile. But rumor has it that the ice fields of Patagonia can experience annual snowfall in excess of 1,300 inches. Due to the field’s remoteness, nobody has confirmed these stats for certain. But if it’s true, this destination could be in the running for the snowiest place on earth. Whether the skiing is good, well that’s another matter.
Chugach Mountains, Alaska
Valdez, a small town on the edge of the Chugach Range, receives an average snowfall of 326 inches per year, making it the snowiest community at sea level in North America. Imagine the amounts of snow that dump in the mountains just a short heli trip away. This is one of the premier backcountry destinations for a reason: the snow is sublime. But check the topography, untouched snow banks and chutes that go on forever. The terrain in the Chugach isn’t too shabby either.
Mount Cook, New Zealand
New Zealand is an adventurer’s dreamscape, with all manner of natural playfields within a day’s reach. But no Kiwi destination better suits snow fiends than Mount Cook. The tallest mountain in New Zealand at 12,316 feet, Mount Cook aka Aoraki (“Cloud Piercer” in Maori) is nestled in a region known as one of the wettest in the world. In the winter months, that precipitation goes solid, piling on the slopes of Mount Cook and the 140 6,000-footers in the general vicinity.
Eastern Himalayas, Nepal
For the most snow in the world, why not look to the tallest mountains, where the peaks that reach into the heavens and practically steal snowflakes from the sky. The Eastern Himalayas in Nepal fit the bill. Annual monsoons bring epic quantities of precipitation to peaks like Annapurna, Manaslu and Kangchenjunga, respectively the 10th, 8th and 3rd tallest mountains in the world. It’s not unusual for more than a foot of snow to fall here on most days. According to one report from Manaslu, during a 30 day period in 2003 the mountain received more than 500 inches of snow in just 30 days. That snow isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
Have you visited any of these snowiest places on Earth? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below or @DegreeMen.
Cover Photo Credit: ken.h / Flickr.com