Ah, snow: You tend to love it or hate it. Or maybe it’s a conditional thing for you. You love it up on the mountain but hate it smothering your driveway. Soft, fluffy, slow-falling, and admired from a serene groomed trail or a frosted lodge window, it’s soothing. As a spitting whiteout maelstrom—or when blitzing downslope as a slab avalanche—it can be terrifying.
The basic ingredients for snow? Subfreezing temperatures and moist-enough air chilled to saturation point, which typically means air forced upwards: by terrain, for example, or by collision with an airmass of different temperature. It can be too cold and too dry for snow, which explains why many frigid, wintry locales don’t actually see snowfalls to write home about. Much of Alaska, for example, collects only a moderate amount—though, given the temperatures, the snowpack sticks around a long time. (Hungry for more snow meteorology? Snuggle up with a hot toddy and the Colorado Climate Center’s Snow Booklet.)
Certain settings enjoy a combination of atmospheric, geographic, and topographic traits that reliably set the stage for the white stuff—and loads of it. The United States has more than a few world-class snow-lands, easily holding their own with other global hotspots such as the windward Japanese Alps and the most monsoon-pummeled ramparts of the Himalaya.
Let’s take a tour of some of America’s true snow factories, from the High Cascades to the Upper Midwest. Snow lovers, eat your hearts out!