how much snow does missoula montana get

How much snow does Missoula Montana get? Missoula is a place known for its breathtaking landscapes and ever-changing climate.

This enchanting region is unique, from the stunning vistas to the diverse weather patterns. But does it snow in Missoula, Montana?

Well, it does, but the real question is, “How much snow does Missoula Montana get yearly? Let’s find out.

Missoula has an unpredictable climate, and it does get snow, which is usually around 40 inches (annually) on average. 

How Much Snow Does Missoula Montana Get?

how much snow does missoula get

Missoula winters are anything from typical, but on average, they bring approximately 40 inches of snow.

Thankfully, it is not a continuous onslaught. Usually. However, that is not always the case; most areas usually get very little snow.

Here’s how it is lately:

MonthsAverage Snowfall (in inches)

Annual Snowfall Averages in Missoula, Montana

annual snowfall averages in missoula

Missoula, Montana, sits at an elevation of 3,209 feet (978 m), enjoying a continental climate with hot, dry summers and moderate winter snow.

The snow season runs from the end of October to April 20th, with yearly average snowfall around 39.5 inches (100cm).

Fact: The average high temperature in Missoula in January is 30.2F, while the average low temperature is 16.7F. 

Historical Data about Snow in Missoula

So, how much snow does Missoula, Montana, get in the winter?

There is snow on the ground around 120 days of the year, but it experiences a milder winter climate than the rest of the state.

That difference is mainly due to its location west of the Rockies, taking advantage of the incoming warm Pacific air. Even so, Missoula has seen record snow,

1996105.7 in
196377.9 in
195573.6 in
201472.5 in

 Since 2014, just less than ten years ago Missoula was ranked 5th for average snowfall in the area.

There have been seven averages over 40 inches, with 2021 approaching 39.4. There were 4 years over 50cm, as were 2011 and 2012.  

Seasonal Variations and Peak Months for Snowfall

peak months for snowfall

What is quite evident about Missoula, Montana, is that it witnesses seasonal variations. For instance: 

The Pacific Influence

Because the Pacific Ocean influences Missoula’s climate, the city tends to be hot and humid.

Temperatures typically start falling into negative numbers in October. Winter lasts till March.

Temperatures as low as 33oF have been recorded but fall to a chilly 16oF regularly.

Fact: December and January see the most snow, but there is snow around for most of the winter, usually three or four days when it approaches 10 inches. 

The Snow-cover

the snow-cover in Montana

Snow over 5 inches happens once or twice a year. But, mostly, flurries leave less than an inch to accumulate.

It means that there is more than an inch of snow for at least fourteen days or so each year.

However, there is a clear four-yearly pattern for December snowfall, which can be as high as 14 inches.

The averages fluctuate for the other winter months, too. February has had 2.7 inches and as much as 9.5.  

Factors Influencing Snow Accumulation in the Region 

Missoula is known as ‘the hub of five valleys ‘ and is renowned for its milder climate with winters that set it apart from the rest of Montana.

The snow pattern for the region around Missoula might seem erratic in the short term. But, it is a cycle that has been happening for millennia.

It is basically related to Missoula’s location in the mountains.

Also, it is connected to the state of the Pacific’s Southern Osculation, a band of warm water that develops along the equator and is often referred to as El Nino.    

The Influence of El Nino

el nino influence

El Nino is a warming and cooling cycle with phases that last about four years.

In the Missoula area, the first snowfall usually arrives in November. But, in one out of four years coinciding with El Nino’s high pressure, October gets the snow.

The warming causes a shift in the global air circulation, disturbing the ocean currents and rainfall pattern.

The shifted currents bring moist, warm air inland to reach Missoula when they are at their strongest every four years or so. 

The Impact of the Humidity and Precipitation

humidity and precipitation impacts

The westerlies blowing in on Missoula from the Pacific are funneled by mountains. They do not meet a barrier until well inland, so Missoula is humid year-round.

The humidity stays 67% on average, although in winter, the relative humidity rises to over 80%. There’s some form of precipitation every month.

However, in winter, the cloud cover is almost constant, and monthly precipitation increases steadily to 11 or 12 inches mid-winter.

More about average humidity in Missoula, Montana:

MonthsAverage Humidity (in percentage)

Although moisture is needed to form snow, the extra humidity in the area makes it melt faster and slows its accumulation until temperatures fall to a consistent low.  

Fact: In Missoula, Montana, the average monthly snowfall last peaked in December 2021 with 7.1 inches. 

The Role of The Mountains

role of the mountains

Missoula is a city at an altitude of over 3,000 feet above sea level.

Although it lies in a valley once glacial lake, it is high enough for its weather to be influenced by the higher air currents.

The city sits on a flat surrounded by steep hills at the convergence of five Montana mountain ranges.

An Important Consideration

When the warm El Nino winds are strong enough, they push the warm air unimpeded toward Missoula and up as it hits the mountains.

In the cold air, the moisture condenses and falls as rain, sleet or snow, depending on the temperature.

Fact: The city itself is protected from the worst mountain weather by nearby mounts Sentinel, 5,158 ft and Jumbo, 4,767ft. 

More about the Impact of Snow on Daily Life

Missoula summers are dry, with moderate daytime temperatures and cool evenings.

Even with the semiarid conditions, the area is rich in flora, with the annual growing season lasting 135 days. 

Winters in Missoula, Montana

winters in montana

The winter chill comes early, and it will snow at some point, somewhere close by almost daily.

However, Missoula is shielded from the severest of the cold arctic air, the Continental Divide at the Montana/Canada border.

Blizzard conditions, such as those witnessed in Havre, Montana, in 2017 or Browning in 1916 when temperatures dropped to -56oF in twenty hours, have never happened in Missoula.

There, the snow falls lightly, with little impact on transportation and the general functioning of the city. 

Interesting Winter Activities to Try

winter activities to try

Missoula lies in an area of outstanding beauty in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.

The mountains surrounding it are a magnet for snow lovers hiking the Lewis and Clark Trail or taking on the challenges of the steep mountain slopes.

Typically, there are 45 days when temperatures rise above freezing and another 7 or 8 when it hovers just above.

Missoula is a thriving winter vacation destination.

There’s plenty to see and do, including:

Outdoor ActivitiesVisit the Lolo Hot Springs resort or explore some of the less commercial hot springs further along the coast.
Snow FunTake a snowmobile to carve your own wilderness trail through the backwaters of Lolo Pass, Seely Lake, Lincoln Ovando or Garnet.    
Go skiingHit the slopes for skiing and snowboarding just minutes away from down-town Missoula.
Dog SleddingExplore the area from a different point of view whilst leading a dog sledding team.

What to Pack for Winter Vacations in Missoula, Montana?

what to pack for winter vacations

To enjoy a winter vacation, visitors need to dress for very cold weather complete with the following:

  • Long thermal underwear
  • Woolen socks
  • A warm, waterproof coat and leggings
  • Hat
  • Scarf and gloves – and layers

Really cold snaps are short-lived but winter visitors are also advised to:

  • Be aware of Missoula’s unpredictable weather and regularly check the local weather reports.
  • Be prepared with provisions and changes of clothing.
  • Plan ahead and keep someone updated with the plans.
  • Choose sensible transport, keeping an emergency kit, blankets and spade in the trunk. 


How much snow does Missoula Montana get? Well, Missoula does get snow, but it is not very severe.

And that is probably why it is a great destination for those interested in winter activities. The topography and location of Missoula helps maintain that nicer climate.

That being said, it is important to be prepared to deal with some unpredictability from time to time.