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What Are The Snowiest Cities In The U.S.?

UPDATED December 1, 2013

By WeatherBug Meteorologists

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This winter has been a brutal one for parts of the West so far, with snow hitting many places unaccustomed to it. However, there are a few surprises on the snowiest cities list. Does your city make the list? Can you guess what the snowiest city is?

Contrary to its nickname as the `Snow Capital,` Buffalo, N.Y., is not the snowiest city in the U.S. It doesn`t even rank in the top ten. Although averaging almost 8 feet of snow a year is nothing to look down on, ten other cities in the contiguous U.S. have those bragging rights.

The most unusual and unexpected city on the list is number eight, Flagstaff, Ariz. The city is located 150 miles north of Phoenix, a city that has only recorded 1 inch of snow twice since records in the city began.

Flagstaff`s elevation is 6,000 feet higher than Phoenix, sitting almost 7,000 feet above sea level, allowing for its cold snow-producing temperatures. During the winter, the Pacific jet stream dips down into Arizona and New Mexico acting as a conveyer belt for eastward moving storms coming off of the Pacific. These two factors come together to produce an average of 8.5 feet of snow a year.

The snowiest cities list moves back to the Northeast with its fourth ranked city. Driving 150 miles east on Interstate 90 from Buffalo we come upon Syracuse, the `Salt City.` The home of the Orangemen averages close to 10 feet of snow a year.

Syracuse`s snow totals are a bit misleading as the city`s snowfall is measured a few miles north of downtown in the urban outskirts at Hancock International Airport. The airport sits perfectly in line for snow bands coming off of Lake Ontario, giving them about a third more snow than downtown Syracuse.

Looking west to the upper peninsula of Michigan we find numbers two and three on the snowiest cities list, Sault Ste. Marie and Marquette. Both receive more than 11 feet of snow annually.

With the U.P. climate experiencing cold arctic winters and Lake Superior providing plenty of moisture, both Sault Ste. Marie and Marquette find themselves covered in the white stuff for most of the winter. As weather systems move through the Great Lakes they bring strong winds over the relatively warmer waters of Lake Superior producing snow events that could last days.

Finally looking at the Sierra Nevada in California, we find the number one city on our list receiving an average of 20 feet of snow a year. Just 70 miles northwest of Sacramento in the Sierra mountain range we find Blue Canyon, Calif. This mountain range takes rainy cold Pacific Northwest storms and turns them into feet of snow. Every winter these storms pack the mountains with snow and leave skiers with a high mountain paradise.

Just to be fair let`s take a quick look outside the lower 48 states. When we bring Alaska into the mix, Blue canyon loses its crown as the snowiest city.

Taking a look into the South central region of Alaska, nestled between the Chugach Mountains and the Prince William Sound we find the city of Valdez. With an average of a little over 27 feet of snow a year, Valdez more than doubles all other cities on the list, except for Blue Canyon.

It`s no surprise that both these cities are popular ski destinations whether by ski lift or helicopter. For all the dangers and nuisances that large amounts of snow can bring to a city, you can always find just as many fun escapes and beautiful views to enjoy one of nature`s greatest treats.

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Photo provided by WeatherBug user Brenda French, taken in Thorton, Colo., during the blizzards in December of 2006.

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