Top 10 coldest states in the US with the most brutal winters

coldest states in the US
The US has a diverse climate because of the different geographical regions it occupies. Source: AFP

Being cold is never fun. It’s not just about the uncomfortable shivers and the constant battle to stay warm; it’s how it creeps into every aspect of your day. 

Winter means dealing with frigid winds that cut through your layers like a knife, frozen sidewalks that turn a simple walk into a balancing act, and the constant struggle of trying to warm up your freezing hands. 

Whether it’s scraping off your car covered in frost or waiting for the bus in zero-degree weather, the chilly weather can simply suck.

The winter chill can be challenging for university students, especially those from warmer climates. 

Navigating snowy sidewalks to make it to early morning classes becomes daunting, and the constant need for heavy winter gear can feel like a burden. 

For international students adjusting to a new culture and educational system, the sudden exposure to sub-zero temperatures and snowy landscapes can be overwhelming. 

While the US is often associated with warmer climates than Canada, it is essential to remember that certain states, especially those in the northern regions, can experience significantly colder temperatures. 

The coldest temperature recorded in the US

While you may think the wild weather you’re experiencing lately to be one of the coldest in US history, you’re wrong.

One of the coldest moments in US history was recorded in Prospect Creek, Alaska. This icy wilderness in the heart of Alaska experienced an almost unimaginable temperature. 

On Jan. 23, 1971, the temperature dropped to a bone-chilling -80°F (-62.2°C)

The extreme cold was attributed to several factors, including the region’s remote location, clear skies, and the absence of heat-retaining features like forests or urban areas. 

coldest states in the US

The hottest state in the US will have you gulping down water to survive the scorching sun. Source: AFP

Hottest states in the US

If you plan to head to the hottest states in the US, be prepared for scorching temperatures that leave you reaching for sunscreen and seeking shade. 

Arizona is one of the hottest states, with cities like Phoenix and Tucson experiencing summer highs that often surpass 100°F (38°C).

The sun beats down on the desert, creating an environment where staying cool becomes a daily challenge.

Texas is another contender for the title of hottest state in the US, especially in cities like Dallas and Austin.

Summers here can be brutal, with temperatures climbing above 90°F (32°C) — close to an average day for countries on the equator.

The combination of high temperatures and humidity in certain areas can make it feel even hotter.

Top 10 coldest states in the US

coldest states in the US

Alaska comes in first place on the list of coldest states in the US.Source: AFP

1. Alaska

Get ready to layer on when you visit Alaska, which is known to be the coldest state in the US.

It has an average temperature of 26.6°F (-3.0°C) which plummets to lows of -30°F (-34°C) during the winter months. 

Nestled in North America’s extreme northwest corner, Alaska’s proximity to the North Pole is why winters here are long, and summer remains cold and cloudy. 

The Fairbanks area, in particular, experiences temperature extremes, with summer highs reaching 90°F and winter lows plunging to around -50°F. 

The severity of Alaska’s cold climate is linked to ocean currents and the influence of winds from northern Canada and Siberia.

The state’s climate not only causes storms that sink boats in harbour and trigger avalanches that close roads, schools and government offices.

It can also be a great shock for international students from warmer countries.

It’s highly likely that you may find the harsh winters and prolonged darkness physically and emotionally demanding. 

Yet, amidst its icy trials, Alaska’s beauty and cultural experiences offer a great location for academic and personal growth, with many graduates saying these make it worthwhile for those who choose to brave the cold.

2. North Dakota

North Dakota is second on the list of the coldest states in the US, with an average temperature of 41.1°F (5.1°C). 

As you tread into winter, the temperatures drop slightly to around 24°F (-4.4°C).

Though cold, these temperatures create a winter wonderland that is great for those interested in activities such as snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, ice skating, and ice hockey. 

January, the coldest month in North Dakota, sees temperatures ranging from a frigid 2°F (-16.7°C) in the north to a relatively milder 17°F (-8.3°C) in the south. 

At the farthest end of the Midwest, North Dakota’s flat terrain witnesses a continental climate with scorching summers and icy winters.

The relentless winter chill lasts for around 50 days below freezing, making it a stark contrast to the milder climates you may be accustomed to. 

coldest states in the US

Get the right clothes to help you survive the temperatures when you study at one of the coldest states in the US. Source: AFP

3. Minnesota

The weather in Minnesota is shaped by a subarctic climate, making winters extremely frosty and with potential for danger.

Last week’s storm reportedly caused 216 crashes, due to icy and snowy road conditions.

The state can get quite snowy, with Minneapolis, for example, seeing around 54 inches every year.

Arriving from warmer climates and adapting to the chilly conditions can be difficult at first.

You will probably have to invest in heavy-duty winter clothing, such as insulated parkas, snow boots and thermal layers, to survive Minnesota’s temperatures.

4. Maine

Prepare for a chilly academic adventure if you’re heading to Maine to further your education. Ranked as one of the coldest states, Maine boasts an average annual temperature of 41.9°F (5.5°C).

Winters here are not for the faint of heart, with an average low temperature of 12°F (-11°C) and snowfall ranging from 10 to 80 inches (25-203 cm).

Despite the extremely cold weather, Maine is a great place for students seeking quality education at highly-ranked universities such as:

  • University of Maine
  • University of New England
  • Husson University
  • Bowdoin College
  • Bates College
coldest states in the US

Studying in one of the coldest states in the US means you get to enjoy hot chocolate all year round. Source: AFP

5. Wyoming

Ranked as one of the coldest states with an average temperature of 42.3°F (5.7°C), Wyoming experiences temperatures that range from 0°F to 15°F.

Even in the lowlands, where many universities are located, there are around 50 inches of snow and winds in the range of 30 to 40 mph (48-64 kph), occasionally blowing up to 50 to 60 mph.

Drastic seasonal changes, heavy snowfall and strong winds may be challenging at first, but don’t be deterred by it.

The state has much to offer, including paradise-like great outdoors and quality education at the University of Wyoming.

6. Montana

With an average temperature of 42.7°F (5.9°C), Montana is one of the coldest states in the US, especially during the winter months.

Winters bring about low temperatures around 11°F (-12°C). The state experiences a significant amount of snowfall annually, ranging from 30 to 60 inches.

The state’s winters are not only cold but also prolonged. As it has extended periods of sub-zero temperatures, it pays to know how to shop well and cook nourishing food so you don’t have to go out too many times.

coldest states in the US

Many states also experience varying amounts of snowfall depending on location. Source: AFP

7. Vermont

Heading to Vermont for the first time as an international student can be a chilly surprise. With an average temperature of 43.2°F (6.2°C), Vermont is one of the coldest states in the US.

Winters, in particular, are a real test, with an average temperature of 22°F (-6°C) and lows dipping to 2°F (-16°C).

This northern state experiences a blanket of snow of around 89.25 inches annually, making it the snowiest state in the US.

As such, it is essential for you to come prepared with warm clothing and footwear. Bring waterproof snow boots, jackets and beanies.

8. Wisconsin

Known as “America’s Dairyland” for its cheese production, Wisconsin is one of the coldest states in the US, with an average temperature of 44°F (6.7°C). 

Home to Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, which contribute to the state’s beauty, it also experiences long, snowy, and freezing winters. 

Wisconsin’s northern and western regions bear the brunt, experiencing up to 160 inches of snowfall annually, while the remainder of the state sees around 40 inches.

Navigating through the snow-covered landscapes and enduring the biting cold may initially be challenging.

However, Wisconsin’s rich cultural offerings, thriving dairy industry and winter activities, such as snowmobiling, are an excellent experience for those looking for adventure. 

coldest states in the US

The entire state of Idaho experiences winter weather, including ice and snow, wind, and freezing temperatures. Source: AFP

9. Idaho

Boasting an average temperature of 44°F (6.7°C), Idaho is one of the coldest states in the US. 

Idaho’s average lows during this season range between -2°F and 22°F, with winter plunging to a bone-chilling 16°F. 

The state is covered with snow, witnessing an annual snowfall of 29 inches (74cm). 

The winter weather brings a mix of ice, snow, brisk winds and freezing temperatures. Even in the milder seasons, like summer and spring, Idaho maintains its cool weather.

Adapting to the state’s cold climate might be difficult for international students coming to Idaho to study, especially for those from warmer regions. 

The initial adjustment to the cold climate might be a struggle, but there are many adventures for you to take on.

Idaho is known for its winter activities, such as ice fishing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing. 

10. New Hampshire

Step into New Hampshire and brace yourself for a climate that embraces both the chill of winter and the warmth of summer. 

It usually experiences an average temperature of 44.2°F (6.8°C), excluding January, which is known to be the coldest month in New Hampshire, with temperatures ranging from -4°F to 15°F. 

The northern regions of New Hampshire receive arctic winds from Canada. The southeastern part of the state experiences milder winters, thanks to the nearby Atlantic Ocean.

However, the state’s diverse winter activities and the warmth of its people offer a silver lining amidst the cold. 

There are many fun things to do in New Hampshire that will give you a memorable winter experience. Picture horse-drawn sleigh rides and snow tubing to get your mind off the low temperatures. 

The powerful cold fronts and arctic winds can make the northern parts of the state particularly frosty, requiring adjustments in wardrobe and daily routines.