Determining the snowiest city in the world is not as straightforward as it might seem.
To begin with, there’s the ambiguity about what counts as “snowiest.” Probably the simplest interpretation would be average annual snowfall, but it’s not the only interpretation. It could also mean the city with the highest single year of snowfall, the city with the highest single day of snowfall, perhaps even the city that it snows the most days per year, or that has snow on the ground the most days per year.
There’s also the question of what constitutes a city. In the United States, for instance, Valdez, Alaska averages 324 inches of snow per year, the Mt. Rainier Paradise Ranger Station averages 676 inches of snow per year, and the Mt. Baker ski area in Washington received 1,140 inches of snow in one season, but Valdez has a population of only about 4,000, Mt. Baker has a population of about 150 and isn’t even incorporated as a town, and the Mt. Rainier Paradise Ranger Station is, well, a ranger station. Are any of these “cities” in the sense intended?
But the biggest problem is that in most of the world, there are no accurate regular measurements taken of snowfall, especially if we’re talking about long term historical data so that we can compile an annual average. For North America, much of the First World, and the largest cities of the world there’s reasonably good data, but good luck determining the average annual snowfall in every godforsaken little town in the middle of Greenland or Siberia.
If we limit the discussion to just major world cities with a population of at least 1 million, then most sources peg Sapporo, Japan, host to the 1972 Winter Olympics, as the snowiest with an average of 200 inches of snow per year. Sapporo even plays up its snowy reputation, hosting a Snow Festival every winter.
Other world cities of that high a population known for being particularly snowy include St. Petersburg, Russia, and Harbin, China. Harbin, though, is really only snowy in the sense that it is snow-covered a high number of days per year, since it is very, very cold very, very long, and once there is snow on the ground it tends not to melt. Indeed, Harbin, like Sapporo, is famous for its Ice and Snow Festival, but in fact while the snowfall at nearby ski resorts at higher elevations is very high (e.g., an estimated 300 inches annually at Yabuli ski resort), the actual snowfall within the city of Harbin itself is quite modest.
In the United States, if we again look only at cities of at least 1 million (and if we fudge by including the entire metropolitan area), then Buffalo, New York is probably the snowiest, at 91 inches per year. Syracuse, New York’s metropolitan area doesn’t quite reach 1 million, but they get even more snow-114 inches per year. But of course neither comes close to Valdez’s 324 inches per year, or the various ski resorts, ranger stations, and mountain passes that receive far more than that.