Nature, Weather & Space

Ranked: The 10 States With The Most Brutal Winters

The results are in: Here are the worst states to call home in the winter. Do you agree with this list?

When February rolls around and the coziness of the holidays is long gone, it’s pretty much just dull, dark winter. There’s no escaping her cold, icy fingers. Her frigid breath. Her shivering toes. Her frosty skin.

You get the point. She means business.

But, depending on where you live, you might be getting off easy. Thrillist created a comprehensive list of the states that have it the worst during the winter, ranked in order from most to least brutal. Their initial list debuted in 2017 and was updated in 2019.

The Thrillist folks looked at everything from weather patterns and average temperatures to the speed at which the states’ departments of transportation cleared roads after a storm. They also interviewed locals and even looked at the historical success rates of the states’ winter sports teams.

After combining all that data, they determined that these are the 10 states with the most miserable winters.

10. Massachusetts

Massachusetts rounds out the top 10. The state gets cold, snowy winters, and residents have even been threatened with a return of the polar vortex! But it’s quite pretty too — just look at this Instagram shot from @nikkihowland:

9. Montana

It can get seriously cold in Montana or, as it is affectionately known, “The Last Best Place.” Beautiful or not, the state gets its share of cold and snow, so you better be ready for some major snow-shoveling if you wanna get your dude ranch on here. Oh, and learn how to ice climb like @montanamountainmama, below.

8. Idaho

Idaho’s No. 8 spot makes sense because it has cold temps that rival Michigan and other wintry Midwestern states. @sunvalley captured this beautiful photo of the landscape at sunset and, yeah, we’re packing our bags right now.

7. Wisconsin

Wisconsin is ranked No. 7, which seems a bit strange as it gets colder there than Michigan. But the authors reckon that the abundance of bars and cheese curds makes up for the cold.

wisconsin winter photo
Getty Images | Tom Lynn

6. South Dakota

South Dakota lands at No. 6. It is slightly warmer than its counterpart to the north, but still cold enough to make waterfalls freeze, as seen in this photo from @onlyinsouthdakota:

5. Maine

Maine gets some of the coldest weather in the U.S. Not to mention, it’s on the coast, so you have to cope with the sharp wind blowing off the icy water. But, hey, it’s beautiful … and, as @evenglezos noted, Jessica Fletcher lives there!

4. North Dakota

North Dakota lands near the top of the list at No. 4. The state is much colder than two of the other states that rank above it (it’s second only to Alaska in terms of temperatures), but perhaps its breathtaking scenery makes up for it.


3. Alaska

Alaska takes the No. 3 spot, thanks to winter temps that fall 50 degrees below zero, not to mention some cities have entire weeks without sunshine. But it turns out that even the dark can be quite beautiful, as seen in this photo shared by the @anchoragedailynews:

2. Michigan

The authors say Michigan comes in at No. 2 less because of the cold and snow and more because the state is so devoid of sunlight during the winter. All told, only about 51 percent of days are sunny or partly sunny in Michigan per year. This is great for preventing sun damage — at the risk of a serious case of Seasonal Affective Disorder. There are, however, some gorgeous views, like this one from @josefmagsig:

1. Minnesota

Minnesota takes the top spot for good reason: The state can dip 60 degrees below zero Fahrenheit and accumulate 3 feet of snow in less than 24 hours. Awesome if you’re a polar bear, not so awesome if you only have your overgrown leg hair to keep you warm. Just look at these blizzard-like conditions in@hello.stoe‘s photo.

What do you think? Do you agree with your state’s rank on this list?