snowiest place on earth

Can you guess the snowiest place on earth?

When the question occurred to me, I imagined some lofty summit in the Himalayas, or maybe a powdered peak in Alaska. Greenland perhaps? Canada? Siberia?

Nope, none of the above.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons,, P Leedell.

As it happens, the snowiest place on record is not very far from my home territory; it’s located “next door” in Washington State. And you’ll never believe its name…

Paradise! (I live at the base of Paradise Ridge, so I’m partial to the name.)

That’s right. Paradise, Washington. This alpine wonderland is an area on the south slope of Mount Rainier at a relatively modest elevation of about 5,400 feet. It encompasses Paradise Valley and Paradise Glacier, which is the source of—you guessed it—the Paradise River.

Interestingly, Paradise was not named during a record-breaking snowfall (hard to believe, right?). It was christened one balmy summer in the late 1880s by the Longmire family, who traveled West in the first emigrant wagon train to cross the Cascade Mountains and established one of Rainier’s first settlements. Rumor has it, one of the women in the Longmire family discovered the paradisaical mountain valley on horseback. Upon seeing the meadows abloom with wildflowers, she made the historic proclamation, “Oh, what a paradise!”

Mount Rainier in July. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, Jancarhart.

The Longmire woman’s impression echoed the legend of the local Lummi Indians who claimed that when Mount Rainier abandoned Mount Baker, her husband, she took the most magnificent flowers and fruits for herself. And years later, John Muir called Paradise Valley “the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountaintop wanderings.”

All that beauty and a lion’s share of snow to boot. According to the National Park Service, Paradise is the snowiest place on Earth where snowfall is measured regularly. In 1971, a whopping 93.5 feet of snow fell throughout the winter, setting a world record. Usually, from November to late May, you can expect to find anywhere from 10 to 20 feet of snow on the ground, with an average winter snowfall of around 53.4 feet.

If you’re a snow buff who’d like to “drift” up to Mount Rainier for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowboarding, here’s where you can plan your visit to Paradise.

  1. Lauren says:

    Oh that is too funny! I never would have guessed a mountain named Paradise would be the snowiest place on earth!
    My husband’s aunt lives in Washington, and though we’re here on the East coast I’d love to make it out there sometime next year and visit with her. I’m hoping we might be able to make the drive from there and stay a couple nights at your B&B as well! Does it fill up fast for the year?
    <3 Lauren

    • MaryJane says:

      I love learning surprise geography facts. Our B&B does in fact fill up fast. Call my daughter, Meggie, as soon as you are able, 208-882-6819. We would LOVE to have you.

  2. WellActually says:

    Well the thing to remember of course that the places that really get heavy snowfall don’t
    have any practical way of measuring the snowfall since either A) the area is too rugged
    and dangerous to get to because of either the heavy glaciation, high elevation and bad
    weather B) if they could get to it there still wouldn’t be a reliable way to measure the
    snowfall given that avalanches would make trying to measure snow very hazardous
    as well as the fact that avalanches, high wind and other factors would distort what
    the real actual snowfall is.

    Suffice to say there are many places in the world that have a better preciptiation/cold temp
    combination with heavier glaciation than Rainer or Mount Baker so places like Paradise(which isn’t
    even at the highest elevation on Rainer) and Mount Baker Ski Resort both in Washington(still lower
    in elevation than Mount Baker) while without a doubt to get a lot of snowfall the reality is that
    there are numerous places that most likely would show higher snowfall totals if there was a way
    to reliably measure the snowfall in a safe way.

    Some of the areas that I’m sure that do receive more snowfall than in Paradise or Mount Baker
    would be in the St Elias Range(Mount Fairweather and Mount St Elias) in Southeast Alaska
    (that borders British Columbia and Yukon Territory respectively). The Chugach range in southern
    alaska is another potential area. The British columbia coast range(in particular around Mount
    Waddinton and Mount Ratz)

    The southern Alps in New Zealand would be another possibility(in particular mount cook)

    Patagonia and specifically in some areas of the southern patagonia icefield(to be really specific
    around TYNDALL glacier and Aguilera volcano).

    an 18000 foot volcano in Colombia called Nevado de Huila which seems to be snowiest mountain
    if the weather predictions for are reliable.

    In the Himalayas Kangchenjunga(the 3rd highest mountain in the word and the most southern
    and easterly of the 8000 Meter peaks which means it probably gets hit by the monsoon more
    than the other 8000 meter peaks. Also the largest glacier, called the Zemu glacier, originates
    from the east face of Kangchenjunga), Annapurna,Manaslu and what is called the Assam
    Himalaya in the extreme eastern part of the Himalayas.

    Here is a pretty good thread on this that gives much more detail

    Ya so in reality, as much snow as Paradise gets, I highly doubt that it would be the snowiest place
    on earth

  3. Pingback: snowfall forecast | Raising Jane Journal

  4. When I was a teacher in Kashmir India , I could see Annapurna, and sometimes Mt. Everest, daily . It’s a huge high range so they only look like blips on the top. But the entire Himalayan Range is very impressive indeed, especially viewed on a daily basis . I could see the glaciers which were probably larger and deeper back then before the climate crisis. We did not have snow much in the deep valley where I lived ( 7,000 ft+) but it was all around if you went any distance from the Dal lake in Srinagar.
    Very impressive info WellActually, I am sure we all learned a lot.

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