Booming Winter Wonderlands: The Top 10 Fastest-Growing Cold-Weather U.S. Cities

These top-ranking frosty cities have all seen local populations swelling with new residents despite their icy winter temperatures.

From breathtaking mountain views (like in #1 Kalispell, MT) to bustling and strollable historic downtowns, each city offers its own unique charm. Vibrant communities and an abundance of nature is what makes these places some of the top destinations Americans want to call home. 

Key Takeaways:

  • #1 Kalispell, Montana, is America’s fastest-growing cold-weather city. Kalispell’s population grew nearly 16% from 2020 to 2022.  The average December temperature is 24.1°F.
  • Montana led the pack with the most fast-growing cold-weather towns in the top 10, including #1 Kalispell, #2 Helena, #6 Missoula, and #9 Billings.
  • 2 in the top 5 are in South Dakota. At #3, Rapid City grew 5.5%, while #4 Sioux Falls grew 4.9% and welcomed nearly 10K new residents.
  • With a 16°F December average, the coldest in the top, #5 Fargo, North Dakota, isn’t scaring residents away. The population grew at a robust rate of 4.4% from 2020 and 2022.
  • Alaska is home to America’s top 4 coldest towns: Utqiaġvik, Fairbanks, Nome, and Bethel. The average December temperatures range from -6°F to 12°F.

Americans' love of affordable destinations has been an ongoing trend in migration patterns for a while now. Many of those are in the south, like Florida, Texas, and Arizona. But with temperatures in these cities only getting hotter, some Americans are choosing cooler locales. 

We've uncovered which cold-weather cities have been gaining new residents the most over the past few years. First, we found the top 50 coldest U.S. cities during the month of December, according to long-term climate data between 1991 and 2022. Then, we found which cities have seen the greatest population gains. 

Montana dominates frosty fast-growth cities: #1 Kalispell and #2 Helena

Montana has been a popular move-to state over the past few years. So it's no surprise cities in this northern destination dominate the top 10 list of fastest-growing cold-weather cities. Taking the top spots are #1 Kalispell and #2 Helena. While the popular big cities of #6 Missoula and #9 Billings have also seen incredible growth in the past few years. 

Many of the cold-weather boomtowns offer affordability, small-town charm, and a plethora of outdoor recreational activities. Students may be settling in places like #10 Madison, WI (Home to University of Wisconsin-Madison) #8 Pocatello, ID (home to Idaho State University), or #5 Fargo, ND (home to ND State University).  Both #3 Rapid City and #4 Sioux Falls in South Dakota offer residents and businesses a friendly tax environment.

Admittedly, the average temperature in these 10 cities is a frosty 24°F, but as the expression goes — there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing choices.

The top 10 fastest-growing cold-weather cities are:

Top ranking cities Population % change
Avg December Temp
1. Kalispell, Montana 15.70% 24.1
2. Helena, Montana 5.60% 24.3
3. Rapid City, South Dakota 5.50% 25.8
4. Sioux Falls, South Dakota 4.90% 22.6
5. Fargo, North Dakota 4.40% 15.9
6. Missoula, Montana 3.80% 25.4
7. Sheridan, Wyoming 2.60% 24.5
8. Pocatello, Idaho 2.50% 25.5
9. Billings, Montana 2.40% 27.7
10. Madison, Wisconsin 1.20% 25.3


30 of the 50 coldest cities saw population decline

We have to admit that, on average, the top 50 coldest cities we studied aren’t growing very fast.

Of the cities analyzed, 30 saw a population decrease from 2020 to 2022.

On top of that, the average population change of the 10 slowest-growing cold-weather cities was -2%. With the average temperature across the 10 well below freezing, a sharp cold 18°F.  

The slowest-growing cold-weather cities are:

Slowest-growing cities Population % change
Avg December Temp
North Platte, Nebraska -2.90% 27.4
Dickinson, North Dakota -2.70% 20.4
St. Paul, Minnesota -2.68% 22
Utqiaġvik, Alaska -2.66% -6.3
La Crosse, Wisconsin -2.50% 24.9
Anchorage, Alaska -1.40% 19.5
Des Moines, Iowa -1.40% 27.7
Nome, Alaska -1.30% 9.1
Minot, North Dakota -1.30% 18.4
Dubuque, Iowa -1.30% 24.6


Baby, the cold ain’t so bad

Americans love to complain about the cold. The winter blues are real, and one survey from a few years ago revealed that 39% of Americans feel “bored” during the winter, and 24% feel “miserable.” On the flip side, neither of those percentages represents the majority. 

While you either love it or you hate it, it's worth adding that winter is just one of four seasons. Every winter starts with fall, ends with spring, and has a summer on the other side. And summers in such places are often abundant in natural beauty and the perfect weather.



To determine the fastest-growing cold-weather cities in America:

  • We started with a list of 214 U.S. cities with data from the National Centers for Environmental Information Climate at a Glance database.
  • Using the average December temperature for each city between 1991 to 2020, we narrowed this list down to the 50 coldest U.S. cities, with average December temperatures ranging from 28.4°F to -6.3°F. The average temperature of all 50 cities in December was 21.7°F.
  • We then ranked these 50 coldest cities by the highest population percentage growth rates between April 1, 2020, and July 1, 2022, according to U.S. Census Bureau Quick Facts data.
  • The #1 ranked city has the highest population growth. 
  • Mt. Washington, New Hampshire, was excluded from the list of 50 cities because there was insufficient data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

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