Look, there’s a reason it’s practically state law that every block in a Wisconsin city or town must have a minimum of three bars on it. There’s a level of persistently grey, soul-squeezing frigidness here that can only be combatted with liberal doses of brandy Old Fashioneds and Spotted Cow along with various forms of fried dairy products. If you go tailgating at Lambeau when Green Bay’s buried under feet of snow, you could be forgiven for surveying the relatively lively demeanor of the local populace and think that everything must be reasonably cool, but that’s just because all these people have been intoxicated for 72 straight days, and it’s all going to come crashing down eventually, likely in relation to some head-scratching game management. Yeah -- don't think just because Mike McCarthy is gone everything's gonna be cool now.
6. South Dakota
Your average high temperature during the winter months is four degrees higher than North Dakota's, and the Black Hills are very pretty when buried under snow. You are the champion of the Dakotas. Claim your slightly less misery-bound throne!!!
More than 80% of Maine’s land is forests. There are entire huge thousand-mile swaths of land that are uninhabited or barely habited, and that is because northern Maine has winters that are only really spoken about in Game of Thrones -- brutal and never-ending and likely on par with The Long Night.
The coast and the south where people actually live have more moderate winters, thanks to the Atlantic, but the Mainer attitude toward winter is a great one -- they all seem pretty fired up to ski and sled despite not getting to eat lobster or blueberries for many months -- and they tend to be much more upbeat than say, Bostonians, who always like to pretend that we’re getting it the worst and thus are the strongest. And that attitude (and the general lack of people in the real harsh stuff) prevents Maine and its Longest Winters from pushing even farther down the line.
MORE: The Ultimate Travel Guide to Juneau, Alaska
4. North Dakota
In Downtown Owl, Chuck Klosterman writes of a sleepy North Dakota town in which the happenings are fairly mundane until a massive, unforgiving blizzard sweeps through and (spoiler alert) kills all three of the protagonists in different horribly depressing ways. The book is a work of fiction. OR IS IT?
Look, if you’re taking things from a purely “how bad can things actually get, weather wise” standpoint, Alaska is obviously the number one choice here. No other state has vast geographical stretches that can say stuff like “man, I haven’t seen the sun in months” and have it be literal rather than figurative. Any data you want to pull on snow, wind, or cold will make most other states seem like Hawaii.
But here’s the thing -- Alaska draws a different type of human. Either you’ve got some Inuit blood flowing through your veins and these types of conditions don’t remotely phase you, or you have the type of slightly unhinged frontier spirit that leads people to say “why yes, I would like to live in the place where even summer can sometimes be kinda winter-ish” or “you know, this Sarah Palin seems like the kind of no-nonsense straight talker who is 100% capable of running a state.” You just can’t view this place through a traditional lens.
Winter in Michigan begins well before Thanksgiving and stretches far past Easter, which makes for four-to-six wearisome months of always-gray, always-cold, always-drizzly, but-rarely-snowy-in-a-good-way misery. Some other states may see colder temps or more snow, but Michigan winters are unrivaled for their utter lack of sunshine. The ceaseless cloud cover begins in October, and envelopes the state in a daily sense of gloom that only worsens when the apathetic sun slouches below the horizon at quarter-to-five.
For the Michigander, this is winter: you leave work at 5 or 6, already in the dead of night, and fight your way down 94 or 96 or 75 or whatever Godforsaken stretch of highway. You can't even tell if it is drizzling rain or snow, because the brown salt sludge that sprays up off the road coats your windshield more completely than anything that falls from the sky. Overnight, the road freezes. In the morning you wake up and it is still dark. You scrape off your car, then get stuck in traffic as the cars ahead of you gawk at the SUV that has slid into the ditch. You actually look forward to a proper snowfall, just to cover the dirt. Even then, you do not go skiing, because there are no hills.
You do not look forward to outdoor winter recreation because there is none. You might go bowling. You probably put on weight. If you are lucky you might have a snowmobile, but it's a pain in the ass to get out. More likely your asshole neighbor has one, and it is loud. In early April you convince yourself it is spring because it is Tigers Opening Day. You overpay for tickets to the game, tell yourself 45 degrees isn't that cold, and cheer when the sun peeks out at the end of the fourth inning. That is the light at the end of the tunnel. Winter in Michigan is a miserable, miserable time. -- Bison Messink, recovering Michigander
To think of the generally cheerful brood of Nordic-bred people being the winners in any sort of a contest of misery seems downright crazy. But for all those adorable don'tcha knows, we think something else is going on. We think beneath that eternal Nordic happiness is some inner pain, trapped below the surface like a Grain Belt dropped into an ice-fishing hole, a cauldron of hot anger ready to spill out like a cut-open Jucy Lucy.
How can you remain so upbeat when you get all the winter weather patterns? Alberta clippers? Sure. Panhandle hooks? You betcha! Parts of northern Minnesota see up to 170 inches of snow in a winter. One hundred seventy inches! That’s like two and a half times the height of Kent Hrbek!! It can get down to negative 60 degrees, a temperature at which frostbite can occur in fewer than five minutes. There are no chinook winds or moderating oceans to temper things outside of a small area by Lake Superior. Your sports teams never win championships. All of your good high school hockey players end up starring for NHL teams in other cities. Ice fishing can’t be that cool, really.
And so we think that -- despite all appearances -- Minnesota does in fact have the most miserable winter in the United States. So to all the Eriks, and Astrids, and Christens, and Bjorns, and Brynjars, it’s OK to show a little displeasure at the clusterfuck of a meteorological hand you’ve been dealt. After all, don'tcha know emoting is good for the system?