CHARDON, Ohio (AP) _ Highway signs at the edge of this village describe it as home to the maple sugar industry, but the people who live here know what really puts Chardon on the map: snow.

The hill that Chardon grew up on isn't high enough to see Lake Erie 15 miles to the north but villagers take pride in living in ''the buckle on the snow belt.''

Since 1946, when the Chardon water department began keeping records for the National Weather Service, the village has averaged just over 107 inches of snow per winter. Gayland Moore, record-keeper for the past 14 years, says the most recent 10-year average is about 112 inches per winter.

That's good enough, federal meteorologists say, for Chardon to rank No. 1 in Ohio for highest mean annual snowfall.

No one's saying Chardon's mean snowfall is the meanest anywhere. But it's right up there.

There's no snowfall ranking for all of the 8,000 cooperative weather stations, like Chardon's, around the nation, says Al Wallis of the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

But average snowfalls for the 280 major U.S. weather stations are ranked, and the top six read as follows: 1. Blue Canyon, Calif., 244.6 inches; 2. Marquette, Mich., 117.8 inches; 3. Sault St. Marie, Mich., 113.6 inches; 4. Caribou, Maine, 113.3 inches; 5. Syracuse, N.Y., 110 inches; and 6. Lander, Wyo., 106 inches.

Buffalo, N.Y., which gets a lot of bad publicity for its heavy snowfall, is ranked 10th with 92.2 inches, Wallis said.

Like many Great Lakes cities, Chardon gets dumped on because of what weather forecasters call the ''lake effect.'' Cold winds pick up moisture as they cross Lake Erie from the west and north and release it inland as snow, especially at higher elevations.

Moore has other figures to prove Chardon's boast: ''The maximum in the records was the winter of 1959-60 when we got 161.5 inches of snow. The most for any one 24-hour period was 15 inches during December 21, 1960, and in January 1978 we had 57.1 inches of snow with 13 inches of it coming on Jan. 27.''

Among Ohio Highway Patrol troopers, the Chardon post is compared to an assignment in Siberia.

''It's a joke around the state; if you do something wrong they're going to send you to the snow belt with fur-lined boots,'' said Sgt. Ronald Kreuter.

Describing snow-paralyzed interstate highways, Kreuter said he didn't appreciate the meaning of ''lake effect'' until he was transferred here from Zanesville in southern Ohio.

''You can go from dry roads to six inches and blinding snow and winds in a matter of a half hour,'' he said. ''Sometimes you get so much snow you can't see but there's no snow in Cleveland,'' 40 miles away.

In Chardon, the U.S. Postal Service does not pretend to live up to its motto: ''Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.''

Forget it, says Postmaster Joe Kluczo. When snow comes he thinks first about the lives of letter carriers.

''I tell them if it's too bad, to bring the mail back,'' said Kluczo. The fact that they rarely do, he says is ''a tribute to them.''

Police Chief William Niehus sees the snow season as a time to worry about motorists' driving habits. In December, the village had 38 inches of snow and 34 accidents - compared to 20 last June.

Schools Superintendent Clyde Zonker says the snow season is when he feels the heat that goes with his job.

''It's the pressure of continually having to make the judgment of whether it's a safe day to bring kids to school,'' he said. ''I never sleep well. I'm always up before the transportation people call at 5 a.m. I'm always checking the window (for snow).''

Last winter, Chardon had three snow days, which Zonker says is about average.

Village Manager Dan Anslinger said the municipality of 5,000 spends nearly $80,000 annually on winter-related expenses, including 800 tons each of rock salt and cinder.

Despite a reputation for snow, the Chardon Area Chamber of Commerce brochure on the village hardly has a picture with snow in it. But it does note: ''There is no denying, Chardon has its share of snow ...''

Asked about the pluses of being Ohio's snow capital, Georgiana Richards, the Chamber's executive secretary, said, ''I don't think it's a plus, really.''