Virginia is a humid, subtropical region often described as having a Goldilocks’ Climate – weather that is “just right.” While offering pleasant summers and mild, crisp winters, you may be wondering if it snows in the state. Does it snow in Virginia? And if so, where?
Yes, it snows in Virginia, especially in its mountainous regions. Wise County, located southwest of the Appalachian Mountains, receives almost 37 inches of snow in a typical winter. Other areas like Gloucester Point and Emporia receive as little as three inches of snowfall.
While jarring winter storms are hardly a norm in the state, winters can still get chilly. There may be locations that do not experience a full-blown White Christmas. Nonetheless, everywhere in the state – including Virginia Beach – gets at least a dusting of snow. If you plan for a vacation and wonder whether to pack your regular outfits or include winter clothes and gear, read on and know more about gradations in Virginia’s weather.
When Does It Snow in Virginia?
Virginia winter season runs from late November to February (though historically, it extended until mid-March). During this period, snowfall becomes more frequent, and temperatures can drop to as low as 18°F (-10°C) when intense cold waves strike. Barring blizzards and mixed precipitation, the temperature during winter ranges from 24.8°F (-4°C) to 58.1°F (14.5°C) across all four (4) months.
While snowfall can spread out from November through February, January is when it predominantly occurs for most Virginia cities. December offers frosty temperatures, but seeing the first snowflake is not guaranteed. Conversely, February already marks the end of winter in the state. The occurrence of snowfall would be thinning by this time – unless you are in Shenandoah County or near the Appalachian Mountains.
How Often Does It Snow in Virginia?
It depends on where you are. The state’s varying topography – paired with the influence of the ocean from the east and cold air masses sweeping over the ranges – create distinct micro-climates in the Coastal Plains, Southwest, and the Shenandoah Valley. Mountainous areas have a higher propensity for significant snowfall than those at sea levels like Hampton Roads and Virginia Beach.
Snow in winter is relatively rare given the state’s predominant subtropical-oceanic climate. Conversely, mountainous regions in Virginia are guaranteed snow at least once a year. Snowfall figures in higher-elevation areas such as Mount Rogers and Wise County average 36 to 52 inches annually versus the entire state, which falls between 13.8 and 15.3 inches. Snow can linger from one (1) day up to a week, depending on the month and other relevant factors.
To get a rough idea of snowfall frequency and what part of Virginia receives the most snow, here are annual averages of some areas in the state based on 1991-2020 weather data collected by the U.S. National Center for Environmental Information:
Piedmont (Central Virginia)
Does it snow in Richmond, Virginia? Yes, it does. Richmond, the capital city of Virginia, has mildly cold and snowy winters. Snowfall can be expected in January (the coldest month in the city) when temperatures can go down to 27.6°F (-2.44°C). Snow lasts for about 2-3 days – much shorter than it was historically.
Coastal (East) Virginia
Does It Snow in Virginia Beach? Until January 3, 2018, Virginia Beach was getting a little over five inches of snow for about three days every January. But because of its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, it gets less snow each year. A long-range weather forecast (covering November 2021 to October 2022) by Farmer’s Almanac predicted that the beach’s best chances of snowfall would be between mid-January to early-to-mid February.
Below are the top five snowiest cities in Virginia in 2021:
- Radford (formerly Lovely Mount)
- Christiansburg (formerly Hans Meadows)
- Front Royal
The Washington-Jefferson Snowstorm
Virginia’s biggest snowfall ever occurred from January 26 to 29, 1772. Former U.S. Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson noted this in their diaries. Their entries support that roughly three feet of snowfall dropped on central and northern Virginia on January 28, 1972. In particular, the 39-year-old Washington witnessed 36 inches of snow at his residence in Mount Vernon.
A Look-back: Worst Virginia Snow Storms
Historically, Virginia has had some pretty brutal winter storms and blizzards. Here are some of the most horrific winter storms in the Old Dominion ever recorded:
The Great White Hurricane
Between March 11 and 13, 1888, Virginia experienced a catastrophic blizzard (along with the entire East Coast) that brought daily life to a halt, caused flooding in coastal areas, and even emptied the Potomac River’s Tidal Basin. Furthermore, this blizzard caused telegraph and telephone wires, as well as electrical lines, to snap. The Great White Hurricane of 1888 led to a loss of communication and electricity in affected states, killed more than 400 people, and brought 55 to 60 inches of snow to some areas of the Northeast.
The Great Arctic Outbreak
In February 1899 (barely 11 years after The Great White Blizzard), the U.S. experienced another monster of a blizzard – a.k.a. The Great Eastern Blizzard of 1899. This fierce blizzard dumped an average of 18 to 30 inches of snowfall from Virginia to southern New England (with parts of Northern VA and Warrenton recording a whopping 54 inches of snow). This intense cold wave set (still undisputed) temperature and snowfall records from Michigan to Florida and reportedly caused Cuba to experience frost.
Storm of the Century
Otherwise known as The Superstorm of March 1993, this massive snowstorm began in the Gulf Coast – causing blizzard conditions over most of the eastern seaboard, thunder snows from Texas through PA, and eleven (11) tornados. Drifts measured 12 feet high in some parts of northern Virginia, and snow averaged 20 to 30 inches all over the state. The weight of the record snowfall even caused the Lancerlot Sports Arena in Vinton to collapse. Ultimately, the Storm of the Century that happened between March 12 and 15, 1993, led to a total of 318 fatalities and over $5.5B USD in damages all over the country.
The Winter Storm of 2009 (or North American Blizzard) formed over the Gulf of Mexico on December 16, 2009. Eventually, it developed into a major snowstorm affecting the U.S. East Coast and Canadian Atlantic provinces. The said blizzard dropped several feet of snow throughout Virginia from December 18 to 19, 2009, leaving a terrible pothole crisis behind, causing Virginia to declare a state of emergency.
Due to changes in sea surface temperatures brought about by El Nino, Virginia and other northern U.S. states suffered the widespread impacts of Snowmageddon starting on February 5, 2010. During this severe blizzard, snowfall accumulated abnormally fast and resulted in more than a foot of snow across VA. West Virginia snow was at 30 inches, while Washington Dulles International Airport in D.C. piled up to 46 inches – making February 2010 the airport’s snowiest month since it began recording snow in 1963.
Cold-Weather Fun in Virginia
Now that you know of VA’s historical and current weather conditions, it is high time to move on to the finer things the Mother of States has in store for adventurers. From uninterrupted landscape views to off-season beaches and frozen waterfalls, Virginia offers some of the most unforgettable winter activities and picturesque destinations in the Commonwealth. Here are a few of them:
1. Wintergreen Ski Resort – Nelson County
Get your fill of adrenaline-infused snow sports in one of Virginia’s most-visited winter resorts. Situated on the Blue Ridge Mountain, Wintergreen provides ten (10) kilometers of slope for snowboarding and skiing, as well as five (5) ski lifts that ferry guests across a great expanse of pillowy snow. If you do not want to get too physical out in the cold, you can choose to soak in the resort’s heated indoor pool (view on Amazon) or enjoy a full-service spa.
2. Omni Homestead Resort – Hot Springs
This resort is fantastic for winter activities, sitting atop an elevation ranging from approximately 2,300 to 3,200 feet. It is home to the Sepp Kober Ski School, where you learn how to ski and snowboard. Not only is the Omni Homestead Resort luxurious, but it also offers scenic views of the Allegheny Mountains and stunning sights reminiscent of Christmas postcards. Here, you can enjoy your holiday ice skating, playing golf or tennis, or unwinding at their world-class spa. Additionally, the homestead has family-friendly slopes great for skiing with beginners and especially kids.
3. Manssanutten Resort – Shenandoah Valley
This piece of winter heaven is just 120 miles west of Washington D.C. It offers an impressive 14 trails, a 1,110-foot vertical drop, golf courses, an indoor/outdoor water park, and many other fun activities for the entire family! Massanutten also houses a 750-foot zip line called the Mega Zipline, an indoor ice rink, and some of the region’s most challenging terrain parks.
4. Crabtree Falls – Montebello
The 3-mile hike along the highest vertical water drop east of the Mississippi River becomes magical during the winter months, as normal cascading waters turn into large patches or sheets of gleaming ice. This hiking favorite has considerably less traffic during wintertime, so make sure to bundle up. Hiking gear – including thermal gloves like Extremities Furnace Pro Primaloft Thermal Winter Gloves (view on Amazon) and an insulating fleece jacket (view on Amazon) – are a must-have when visiting this outdoor gem.
5. Colonial Williamsburg
If you are into city tours, then historic Williamsburg should be part of your destination list! The old city has a lot to offer – take your pick from live entertainment venues like the Kimball Theater and ice skating pavilions to hiking trails and shopping for 18th-century furniture and other souvenirs at Merchants Square. History buffs who like to dive deeper into the town’s history will indeed find the Yorktown Battlefield and DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum to their liking.
6. Sandy River Outdoor Adventure Resort
Just minutes away from Farmville, this well-known summer destination is also a hit with outdoor enthusiasts during the colder winter months. This rural retreat offers luxury glamping teepees with heated floors, allowing a comfortable stay even through frigid nights. Best of all, each teepee has its own fire pit where you can grill meat or roast marshmallows while enjoying drinks and having a good time with friends. The place is super Instagram-worthy, especially under starlit skies.
7. Old Town Alexandria – Fairfax County
Tourists enjoy the brick-lined King Street Mile, studded with historic architecture, local attractions, and over 200 boutique shops and restaurants. But there is more to Old Town than this picture-perfect spot. Take a tour of George Washington’s Mount Vernon mansion, visit the Lyceum and Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, or watch chocolate-making celebrations. During the winter months, revel in beautiful lights, the aroma of flavorful food, and crowds of curious travelers in this nationally designated historic district.
8. Salamander Resort & Spa – Loudoun County
This LEED-certified country manor was founded by Sheila Johnson – the only Black woman to have ownership of two (2) NBA and one (1) WNBA pro sports teams – and is minutes away from Middleburg. The resort offers equestrian-themed accommodations, alongside a 22-stall horse barn, outdoor heated pool and spa, and a library. Outdoors, guests can enjoy a zip line canopy tour, ax throwing, archery, and (of course!) horseback riding.
9. Busch Gardens Christmas Town
Visiting this festive pseudo-town is like witnessing what Christmas is like around the world in a single day. Here, you can watch Scrooge No More at the Globe Theatre, enjoy tasty European treats, marvel at embellished Christmas trees, and get serenaded by heavenly caroller voices singing at the base of Big Ben. You can also enjoy Finnegan’s Flyer, Apollo’s Chariot, and other thrilling rides throughout the park.
10. Virginia Beach
Filled with beautiful sandy shores, luxury accommodations, and boutique shops and restaurants, this popular destination in the Commonwealth is one of the sites to be, regardless of the time of year. From whale-watching to liquor-tasting at the Chesapeake Bay Distillery to taking leisurely walks along the Boardwalk, Virginia Beach offers a cozy respite from harsher winters elsewhere.
Conclusion – Does It Snow in Virginia?
While winters in Virginia vary from one region to the next, it does snow in every part of the state. Higher-elevation areas like the Appalachian Mountains do get more precipitation than other locations. But even Virginia Beach gets to enjoy five (5) inches of snowfall.
Nevertheless, there are many winter activities for vacationers and even permanent residents to enjoy no matter where they are. They include physically demanding snow sports, thrilling park rides, nature trailing, historical tours, or a more-relaxed indoor spa experience. If you are looking for a mildly snowy yet extraordinary winter experience, then head for the state with the Goldilocks’ Climate.