The 10 Most Beautiful Winter Towns in the U.S. Know How to Let It Snow
Brutally cold, but aesthetically pleasing.
Let’s be honest, winter has a way of making even the most picturesque locations feel dreary and depressing. But scattered across the country are a few towns that really come alive during the coldest season of the year—cities and towns that sparkle beneath gray skies and a fresh layer of snow, proving that winter wonderlands really do exist. From mountain towns to seaside retreats, these frosty destinations look like they jumped right out of a Christmas snow globe.
Average annual snowfall: 300 inches
With a plethora of undeveloped, open space on its hands, Breckenridge balances the role of quaint mountain town and bustling tourist haven pretty seamlessly. If all you do here is prowl the ski slopes, well, that's cool and all (we won't judge), but you'd be totally missing out on eye-catching winter attractions like the International Snow Sculpture Championships, the Norse-themed Ullr Fest, and the world’s highest distillery.
Average annual snowfall: 222 inches
Between charming attractions like the Stowe Recreation Path and Cross Country Ski Trail, the frozen Bingham Falls, and the Trapp Family Lodge (yes, as in The Sound of Music’s Von Trapps), Stowe's pretty much got the "beautiful Vermont winter" thing locked down. It's the quintessential New England town (complete with a covered bridge), and it's also home to the original Ben and Jerry's factory—that alone should keep you busy.
Average annual snowfall: 78 inches
Not to be confused with Jackson Hole, the chilly town of Jackson acts as a gateway for the millions of tourists who pass through on their way to Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park, or one of the many nearby ski resorts. A visit to Jackson is not complete without a winter sleigh ride through the National Elk Refuge, which is home to bighorn sheep, bald eagles, trumpeter swans, coyotes, and—you guessed it—lots of elk. And the animal is so symbolic of Jackson that four elk antler gateway arches serve as entrances to the town square.
Average annual snowfall: 199 inches
Tucked away into a box canyon and bordered on three sides by 14,000-foot peaks, this former mining camp's pretty much the platonic ideal of a mountain town. Telluride's renowned for the Victorian and Greek Revival architecture lining its historic district, and since the famous Telluride Film Festival is already over by the time winter rolls around, there's nothing to distract you from complementing the stunning buildings with an array of snow angels and snowmen. Once you’re done, make sure to hop on the spectacular 13-minute gondola ride up to the neighboring Telluride Ski Resort.
Average annual snowfall: 46 inches
Kennebunkport gained notoriety as a haven for the moneyed elite in the late 19th century, but this Northeastern seaside town takes on a new look once the warm weather crowds retreat. The colorful buildings of Dock Square contrast with the fresh powder that blankets the town each winter, and a drive down Ocean Avenue showcases many of the fabulously expensive homes peppering the coast.
Mammoth Lakes, California
Average annual snowfall: 400 inches
California's reputation for sunshine and warm weather is a given, but with an elevation of 8,000 feet and an annual snowfall higher than Vail, Colorado’s, Mammoth Lakes is basically the polar opposite of the cliche. Its natural beauty is not all pine trees and freshly fallen snow, though. There are also a bevy of hot springs between the towns of Mammoth Lakes and Bridgeport that make for an excellent respite from the blustery weather.
Average annual snowfall: 95 inches
The smallest state capital in the entire country, Montpelier in mid-winter looks like the fairytale town scene you'd build for your model train set. Take in those snow-capped Green Mountains with a sledding adventure, or hit the slopes at nearby Bolton Valley Resort. And while you’re at it, don’t miss the Ice on Fire Winter Festival, which boasts dance, theater, music, winter games, and more.
Average annual snowfall: 102 inches
Nestled in Heber Valley and bordered on its western side by the towering Wasatch Mountains, Midway's a looker from the jump. That said, its most striking wintertime feature is definitely the Ice Castles: massive artistic structures, hard-carved each year from nearly 20 million pounds of ice. You might also recognize Midway from its appearance in the series finale of Everwood (a deep cut, we realize).
Crested Butte, Colorado
Average annual snowfall: 192 inches
Back in 2014, Budweiser transformed this adorable little mountain town—the birthplace of The Hills star Heidi Montag, no less—into the booze-fueled Whatever, USA. But don't be fooled—no hokey marketing stunt could ever ruin Crested Butte's poetic, snowy beauty. Be sure to take a stroll down Elk Street to admire its charming Victorian storefronts, home to independent shops and art galleries.
Average annual snowfall: 113 inches
Buttressed by the neighboring resort town of Sun Valley, Ketchum sits comfortably beneath Bald Mountain in the Wood River Valley, and, as such, offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside that are only amplified in winter. You might also know it as the place where Ernest Hemingway was laid to rest, but while his house is still standing, it’s not open to the public—that is, unless you’re selected for its very exclusive Writer-in-Residence Program. Then you get to live there.