6 Emotional Stages of Your First Cold Winter

by Lara Rutherford-Morrison

When you’re from a warm climate, winter seems like a beautiful fantasy. I grew up in South Texas, where winter is indicated by a drop in temperatures from “swelteringly hot” to “mildly cool.” Winter was the nice part of year, when we could finally wear long sleeves and turn off the air-conditioning without having to worry about heat stroke. But real winter—the kind I usually only saw in the movies—seemed magical, all sugar plum fairies and twirling snowflakes and sipping Butterbeer by the fire (OK, so apparently my fantasy of winter is just The Nutcracker merged with Harry Potter). Which is why moving to a cold climate was such a slap in the face. When I moved to Montreal last year, I didn’t own a real winter coat. Hell, I didn’t even have real shoes: in Texas, “dressing for winter” meant “wearing socks.”

For people who grew up in warm climates, the shift to a place with a real winter—the kind of winter that can kill you in all too many ways—is a harrowing spiritual journey, proceeding through a number of distinct emotional stages. For those of you in the midst of it, I feel your pain. Just keep telling yourself, “It’ll all be OK.” Summer will come eventually, right? Right?


At first, the prospect of moving to a cold climate is terribly exciting. You think, “It’ll be so different! I’ll have a white Christmas! I get to buy adorable outerwear! I’ll get to snuggle by the fire! And buy cute hats and wool coats! And scarves! Ooo, mittens!” (Really, the potential for shopping is the best part.)


As you’re packing all of your stuff, dreaming of the adorable red wool pea coat you’re going to buy, cracks begin to appear in your fantasy. People start talking to you about temperatures of 20 below zero—temperatures you cannot even fathom—and they tell you about that time their eyelashes froze. You start to get worried.


It’s November, and it’s starting to get cold. You reason, “If I just keep wearing my fall clothes, maybe winter will never come.” But it does. It’s arrival becomes inescapably apparent when you’re walking home in 15 degree weather in a sundress and leather jacket, and you wonder if it’s possible for your nose to literally freeze and break off.


You live in winter apocalypse, and you are pissed. This weather is so stupid. Why would anyone settle here in the first place? What genius landed here 400 years ago and thought, “Look! A giant block of ice! Let’s build a city here!”

Also, the plan for adorable outerwear is not working out. Basic survival requires the puffiest, warmest, least-flattering parka known to man.

Depression and Isolation

You think, “Fine, I’ll just stay inside for the next 5 months, talking to no one and doing nothing.” You settle in for hibernation (and Netflix binges).


You finally accept that Earth has entered a new ice age. You resign yourself to living in a frozen dystopian future, and start making an effort to get outside to soak up whatever sunlight the world has left. You discover that, when you’re properly bundled up, winter activities like snowshoeing and snow tubing are actually really fun.

Congratulations! You are Master of the Snow! At least until next year, when it will inexplicably manage to seem even colder. Godspeed.

Images: Getty Images; Giphy(4)