Winter really is the most wonderful time of the year… for some. College students who love winter might not know it, but some universities are a cut above the rest when the cold hits in full force. Rather than simply enduring the huge amounts of snow they receive annually, these colleges thrive by providing students with winter festivals and events that thaw their January blues. They’re also leaders in dealing with snow by providing resources that make traversing campus easier.
To find out the top winter-ready universities, we ranked hundreds of the snowiest campuses across the nation. We scored them based on the amount of snow they receive annually, the number and magnitude of winter events sponsored by the university, the amount of salt dedicated to snow removal, and the number of heated tunnels, skyways and walkways provided to students for safe and warm walks to class. If you’re interested in the specifics of our ranking system, check out our Methods section.
And now, Rent College Pads presents: the Top 25 Most Winter-Ready Universities in the nation.
- Northeastern University | Annual Snowfall: 71.1 Inches
Our number 25 university has experienced snowfalls of more than 71.1 inches per year — that’s almost six feet of the stuff! But that doesn’t mean you have to be a winter shut-in if you’re thinking of going to school here. Northeastern University students make the most of their snowy situation by attending Boston’s many winter events.
Some highlights include the annual lights that are strung up around streets like Commonwealth Avenue and Newbury Street, as well as the many sledding and ice skating opportunities around town. If you’re a sports fan, have no fear: check out Northeastern’s awesome hockey teams during the winter season!
- Grand Valley State University | Annual Snowfall: 67.9 Inches
Coming in at number 24, GVSU gets almost six feet of snow each year. Grand Valley State University is located in Allendale, Michigan, which is home to lots of great winter time activities if you’re looking for something to do. In December there are lots of light festivals and Christmas displays to see, and each year university students gather at Grand Rapids to watch the New Years Eve’ ball drop. If you need a winter school that means business, you can do a lot worse than GVSU.
- Wright State University | Annual Snowfall: 85 Inches
Fairborn, Ohio is a haven for snow lovers, and Wright State University students know it. On top of the near seven feet of snow they’ve received in years past, Fairborn is a great place for skiers and ice-skaters to strap on their gear and rejoice. For students afraid to drive in Fairborn, have no fear: as part of the Salt Belt, Ohio uses an annual average of 9.1 tons/lane-mile of salt to keep its highways and streets clear.
- Cleveland State University | Annual Snowfall: 70.3 Inches
There’s nothing like a little music to beat the winter blues. Cleveland State University knows this, and that’s why they’ve got the Winter Jam set up for students to enjoy. It’s an event full of great music by amazing performers that you won’t want to miss! If you’re not a huge music fan, no worries: the event also showcases comedians (and who doesn’t need a laugh in the middle of a long winter?).
- Cornell University | Annual Snowfall: 68.8 Inches
Who says winter has to be cold? That’s the thinking behind Cornell University’s Festival of Fire & Ice, an annual winter event dedicated to bonfires, fire spinning, hot chocolate, sledding, snow-fort building and more. You’re sure to stay warm, and so will your wallet — the festival is free, and so are the incredible fire-based performances (although donations are surely appreciated!).
Who cares about almost 70 inches of annual snow when you’ve got a deal like that to keep your college savings fund toasty?
- University of Minnesota Duluth | Annual Snowfall: 95.9 Inches
You’re going to want to pick up a UMD hat or scarf if you’re attending the University of Minnesota Duluth. They’ve had record annual snowfalls of almost 96 inches a year, which, if you’re doing the math, is about eight feet of snow. It’s a good thing it doesn’t all come down at once, or else even the tallest students would be drowning in it!
Thankfully Minnesota uses hefty amounts of salt to clear its campus and streets, so for those looking for a great white north experience that doesn’t soak your shoes in the process, look no further than the University of Minnesota Duluth.
- Binghamton University | Annual Snowfall: 71.1 Inches
A little snow isn’t going to stop Binghamton University students from having fun. In this case, it’s more than a little — 71.1 inches, to be exact — but the snow only adds to the excitement in Binghamton come winter time. There’s no shortage of things to do, from skiing, snowboarding or tubing down Greek Peak Mountain Resort, to checking out a Devils game, to exploring the Nature Reserve. Opportunities abound here, so if you’re a snow-lover looking for a university that matches your winter needs, you can’t go wrong with Binghamton.
- Montana State University | Annual Snowfall: 94.6 Inches
Would this really be a most winter-ready university list without Montana showing up somewhere? Montana State University is located in Bozeman, a town famed for its gorgeous winter views. It’s often rated one of the most beautiful winter towns in the nation, but there’s a lot more to do here than just admire the scenery.
Like any great winter town, there’s ice skating rinks, but there’s also dog sledding (you can’t pass that up!), and when you’re cold from all your outdoor adventures, there’s local hot springs to relax in. Lastly, Yellowstone National Park is just 90 miles south of Bozeman, so if you’re attending Montana State University, you should plan a winter trip down there at least once during your time there.
- University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign | Annual Snowfall: 45 Inches
While UIUC doesn’t get as much snow as some of the other schools on our list, they’re certainly prepared for it. The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is the first college on our list to employ the use of heated tunnels for access to several select buildings and facilities, something students greatly appreciate when the chill rolls in. For fun, students like skating around the U of I ice rink, and to beat the cold they come down to see winter movies at the Virginia Theatre, like Home Alone and White Christmas.
- Excelsior College | Annual Snowfall: 81.6 Inches
Snow-saturated New York is home to lots of great winter universities, such as Excelsior College, which has garnered 81.6 inches of annual snow in years past. Excelsior is located in Albany, where winter is a big deal: check out nearby Clifton Park’s Winterfest and you’ll know why. Residents go sledding, engage in competitions like the Best Soup Contest and Clifton Park Idol (a singing competition that draws lots of attention!), and more. With snow like this, you’re sure to find some winter fun if you attend Excelsior College.
- Boston University | Annual Snowfall: 71.4 Inches
We’re sure the founding fathers were less fond of the snowy conditions in Boston than we are, but that’s probably because they didn’t have time for ice skating and sledding (they were too busy plotting to overthrow their king). If they did, they would’ve found plenty to do here. BU offers its students lots of great opportunities in the winter, like Break the Ice, which helps college kids find student organizations to join. There’s also the Back Bay Ball, which is the city’s self-described “Best New Year’s Eve Ball In Boston.”
- University of Colorado Boulder | Annual Snowfall: 81.5 Inches
Is anyone surprised that Colorado Boulder ended up on this list? If you’re attending UC Boulder, you’d better love the snow: 81.5 inches have fallen here in years past, and its location up in the foothills of the Rockies means that’s not changing anytime soon.
Students have held celebrations like Winter Fest in the past, celebrating all the great winter activities UC Boulder has to offer. If you’re an avid skier, look no further than perhaps the most famous ski resort in the nation: Breckenridge. It’s just under two hours away from Colorado Boulder, so make sure to book a trip before you’ve graduated from this snowy haven!
- University of Minnesota Twin-Cities | Annual Snowfall: 55.5 Inches
The University of Minnesota Twin-Cities is doing winter right: not only do they have a tunnel system for those harsh winter days, but they’ve also implemented skywalks for heated above-ground transit. That’s two times the transportation!
When you’re not enjoying a January stroll through a heated tunnel in shorts and a t-shirt, check out the St. Paul Winter Carnival, which has over four dozen different winter activities for Twin Cities residents. It’s been around since 1886, so you can be sure this is one tradition that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
- UMass Medical School | Annual Snowfall: 101.7 Inches
Our first college to crest 100 inches of annual snow is the University of Massachusetts Medical School, which is located in Worcester, Massachusetts. It’s just one part of the larger University of Massachusetts school system, but the Worcester receives even more snow than other campuses, which are located in other parts of Massachusetts. It’s also home the Winter Ball, a classy affair for those seeking some respite from the eight and a half feet of snow that blanket the school annually.
11. Boston College | Annual Snowfall: 71.4 Inches
Does your university offer winter carriage rides around campus? We didn’t think so. That’s why you might want to consider transferring to Chestnut Hill’s Boston College. In addition to its close proximity to all the wonderful winter events happening in Boston, Boston College sponsors many of its own snow festivities, including Christmas caroling concerts, gingerbread house decorating, gift giving ceremonies (they’ve encouraged students to donate gifts to the Italian Home For Children before) and of course, carriage rides. The list goes on, so make sure to check out what kind of winter activities will be happening at Boston College this upcoming year!
- Harvard University | Annual Snowfall: 71.4 Inches
The oldest institution of higher education in the United State is well known for the academic excellence of its students, but it’s no pushover when it comes to celebrating the east coast snow, either. Harvard’s Plaza WinterFest has hosted lots of great events in the past, such as its newly designed ice lanes that feature curling, shuffleboarding and bowling.
Students who get a little chilly can enjoy the fire pits set up for relaxation while enjoying delicious treats like s’mores and hot chocolate, as well as great snack options from food trucks.
- Northern Arizona University | Annual Snowfall: 97.6 Inches
Hang on a minute. Did we just put Arizona and snowfall in the same headline? On top of that, did we really just say 97.6 inches of snow? Yes. Yes, we did. Northern Arizona is no stranger to snow — unlike the dusty southern towns that line the bottom of Arizona’s border, Flagstaff, Arizona is mountainous enough to support ample snowfall, which is certainly true of NAU’s campus. It’s good to know that the east coast isn’t the only place to go when you need some snow!
- Tufts University | Annual Snowfall: 101.7 Inches
Tufts University is another college that crests 100 annual inches of snow, and as such it lands pretty high on our list. After all, you’ve got to really love the snow if you’re willing to put up with almost eight and a half feet of it each year!
But Tufts is prepared: Massachusetts uses the most road salt of any state in America, with an annual average loading of 19.4 tons/lane-mile on state highways. That’s enough salt to melt through eight and a half hundred feet, if need be.
- The University of Vermont | Annual Snowfall: 85 inches
When students return to UVM after winter break, they’re immediately thrown back into the action with the school’s popular WinterFest. It’s a great way to re-energize students and get them involved on campus in the new year, and it involves everything from free hot chocolate all week long to renowned lectures from Keynote speakers. WinterFest is an annual ordeal, so expect lots of great snow-themed activities over the years if you’re a UVM student.
- Iowa State University | Annual Snowfall: 36 inches
How did a university with only three feet of annual snow rank so high on our list? It all comes down to being winter-ready! Iowa State University is another campus with tunnels — only, these ones aren’t for students. Instead, they’re full of steam pipes that distribute heat to all sorts of different places campus-wide. There are a grand total of more than four miles of steam tunnels at ISU, so don’t worry about freezing in class.
They’ve also got their own WinterFest (what good winter school doesn’t?) complete with games, art, bowling, beverage tasting, crafts and more.
- Rochester Institute of Technology | Average Snowfall: 84 Inches
Rochester is a snowy haven, and RIT takes full advantage of it. How, you ask? Freezefest! Freezefest is a fantastic winter festival where students and community members get together in the coldest months of the year to participate in a 5k run, food truck meals, BINGO and (our personal favorite), “PuppyFest.” There’s no wonder it lands at number five on our list with a festival like this.
- SUNY Buffalo | Annual Snowfall: 96.8 Inches
The University at Buffalo is no stranger to winter. It suffers from regular blizzards thanks to lake effect snow from Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes. That means residents of Buffalo are regularly subjected to nearly 100 inches of snow per year. But they’re not dreading it! They’ve got their own Winterfest, as well as great locations nearby to ski, tube, snowboard and sled.
If you’d rather watch someone be cold than be cold yourself, have no fear: you can always catch a Buffalo Sabres hockey game. In fact, people love winter so much here that they even teach international students how to love the harsh Midwestern winters that so many Americans are used to.
- SUNY Albany | Annual Snowfall: 81.6 Inches
We wish we’d known about the SUNY Albany tunnels sooner. That’s what many students say after braving months of cold weather just to learn of the massive tunnel system beneath Albany’s campus! With a good dose of annual winter events and lots of snow to share, it’s unlikely that anyone who can’t get enough winter will be disappointed at the University at Albany.
- University of Rochester | Annual Snowfall: 84 Inches
At number two on our list, the University of Rochester is a near-perfect winter wonderland. To start, it gets loads of snow: 84 inches a year is nothing to scoff at. On top of that, Rochester celebrates with an entire Winterfest weekend, which lasts from a Friday in February all the way into Monday night. Activities include live music, theatre performances, snacks and crafts, and more.
Worried about trekking to all these events? Don’t. On top of the great winter activities and the piles of snow that the U of Rochester receives, the campus is also prepared with a network of underground tunnel systems connecting its buildings. Beat the brutal morning walk by being under the weather — literally!
- Syracuse University | Annual Snowfall: 126.3 Inches
Crushing the competition by a mile in annual snow is Syracuse, which experiences ten feet of snow on particularly blizzard-like years! Syracuse University becomes its own north pole in the winter, but, like other universities, students and staff don’t let it stop them from having fun.
They’ve got their very own Winter Carnival, which is a weeklong event commemorating the snowy conditions of upstate New York. There’s giveaways, trivia, free food, chili-making contests, live music, lazer tag, a skate night… the list goes on. With its sheer amount of snow and an ample amount of activities to do when it’s coming down in sheets, Syracuse University is our official most winter-ready university in America.
Our list was compiled using the following criteria:
- Annual City Snowfall: For each university considered, we first looked at the annual snowfall of the city each university was located within. Snowfall data was collected from 2013 National Weather Service observer stations and NWS First Order stations. We then compared snowfall data and assigned each university a numerical ranking.
- Statewide Salt Use: Our next criteria was the amount of salt used to clear roads, highways, sidewalks and paths for each university’s state. Salt use was determined using data from the Transportation Research Board. States that used greater amounts of salt to combat snowfall were awarded a higher score.
- Winter-Ready Facilities: Next, we examined the number of universities on our list that provided winter-friendly facilities for their students. This included skywalks, tunnel systems and steam tunnels made for the purpose of heating or shelter from the elements. These universities received a generous bonus based on the amount of winter-ready infrastructure present.
- Winter Activities: Finally, we researched the type and quantity of winter activities available to students at each university. Universities were given a small bonus if they were located near towns with a large number of winter activities, a medium bonus if the university itself hosted at least one winter event, and a large bonus if the university held a several-day long winter festival, carnival or other major celebratory winter event.
Final Ranking: By comparing the data and applying bonuses, we arrived at our final list. It should be noted that for this list, only universities with on-campus housing and a student population of 10,000 or greater were considered. This was done to compare colleges with similar levels of infrastructure, as community colleges and smaller universities do not require the same level of winter-ready facilities and services as larger universities, and typically do not have the same amount of resources to host lengthy winter events.