White out

What to Do When It Snows in Seattle

Suit up, leave the car, and grab the sled.

By Allison Williams

I'm dreaming of a white Climate Pledge Arena roof.

It might snow in Seattle. Or, of course, it might not. Every time we get a flaky forecast, the hearts of schoolchildren skip with excitement and the stomachs of almost everyone else drop in dread. Seattle Weather Blog notes that the city gets, on average, less than six inches of snow per year—here's what to do if our climate is feeling above average.

Stay Off the Roads

Watching cars pirouette down the city's famously slick hills makes for excellent Youtube viewing, but you're safest leaving the car in park. "But people in Buffalo/Boston/Lake Wobegon drive in 10 times as much snow!" Yeah. We know. But in 2012 MyNorthwest reported that the city has about 35 plows and yet would need upwards of 200 to cover every Seattle street. A city map notes which routes get cleared first.

Heading on the highway? Know your tire chain requirements. When the Washington State Department of Transportation says "chains required," they might be talking to you.

Shovel Your Sidewalk

It's the law! Plus, you'll be much happier if you shovel while the snow is fluffy, rather than wait until it freezes into an Olympics-level luge.

Grab a Sled

Gotta do something with those carless hills (many of which will be closed to traffic by SDOT). In 2021 editor Allecia Vermillion decided to brave Cherry Street by sled to show her son how it's done.

Ski the City

The Valentine's Day storm of 2021 saw a rush of skiers hitting the slopes within city limits. One group of teenagers set up a terrain park in Gas Works.

Make a Snowman

Frosty may have a magic top hat but Slushy the Seattle Snowman dons a semi-ironic tam o' shanter and probably leans against a No Parking placard.

Get Cozy Indoors

Sure, being stuck inside may have lost its special appeal after, oh, the unprecedented pandemic and heat dome of last summer. But snow day recipes from local chefs offer an excuse to fire up the oven for warmth, and our Big Seattle Reading List of Seattle's best books isn't going to read itself.

Laugh at Everyone Else

A Seattle snowstorm is the perfect time to mock those who freak out at every inch that accumulates or buy out the chip aisle at PCC. But mostly it's a time to enjoy Seattle's snow dogs.

Oh, and if it doesn't snow? Find the fluffy stuff on our best snowshoe hikes near Seattle.

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