So you’re moving from a warm climate to a cold one, congratulations! You’re trading perpetual sunshine for sunsets that begin at 3 o’clock in the afternoon; cute leather jackets for gigantic parkas; outdoor running for months-long hibernation; sunscreen for layers upon layers of wool. But winter isn’t all bad! There are lots of fun things about living in a place that is frozen for months at a time, like…um…snow. Snow is pretty sometimes, right? And, uh, ice—ice skating is fun. And, well... OK. I can’t think of anything else. The fact that it is currently 3 degrees where I live is blocking my ability to drum up enthusiasm about the season. Sorry, snow lovers.
I moved from sunny Southern California to frosty Quebec last year, and, needless to say, it was traumatic. But having survived one winter in the Great White North, I am now a winter veteran, and I am here to share my hard-won wisdom with you, gentle readers. Nothing quite prepares you for your first sub-zero day (or the first time your eye lashes freeze together, or the first time you spend an hour digging your car out of a mountain of snow, or...), but here are a few tips to make your first winter just a little bit easier. Winter may be a cruel mistress, but if you prepare for it, you'll most likely survive.
1. Be prepared to invest in winter clothing—actual winter clothing
If you’re moving to a really cold climate, plan to spend a fair amount of money on winter gear. Your biggest investment will be a really warm parka. Warmth trumps fashion with this article of clothing: you want something that is down-filled, water proof, knee-length (at least), and that has plenty of pockets and a hood. Parkas can be expensive, but your coat will be the only thing standing between you and an icy grave—it is worth the money! If you’re able to shop far in advance, the best time to shop is after Christmas, in January and February. A lot of really good brands will have excellent sales around then. (That’s how I scored my North Face parka for half-off.)
You’ll also want to have some wool socks, at least a couple of wool sweaters, long winter underwear, thick gloves, a snug wool hat, a wool scarf...are you noticing a wool theme here? The more wool you can fit on your body, the better.
2. You need boots. Ugly ones.
When I was shopping for snow boots last year, the sales guy told me, “You can have cute or warm, but not both.” Truer words were never spoken, my friends. There are lots of adorable leather boots that can get you through December or so, but once you get to January, you’re going to need snow boots. The combination of freezing temperatures with snow, ice, and salt on the ground will mean that you want boots that are insulated, waterproof, and that have deep treads. Because salt discolors and corrodes leather, it also helps to have boots that are rubber on the bottom.
3. Force yourself go outside, even when you don't want to
It will be tempting to spend the entire winter holed up in your apartment like a hibernating polar bear, but, in the long run, you'll only get depressed. Try to get outside into the sun as much as you can. You don’t always have to travel to a ski resort to find winter sports that are fun and accessible. For example, many wintery cities have places where you can snow shoe and cross country ski, as well as places where you can rent snowshoes and skis without breaking the bank. Keep your eyes peeled for winter festivals and community events; my city, for instance, has a festival every year with ice skating and snow tubing. (Snow tubing essentially involves hurtling down a chute made of ice on an inner tube. It is insanely fun.)
4. That said, be safe
You should try to go outside and soak up Vitamin D when you can, but be aware of the dangers of extreme cold. For example, when the air gets too cold, outdoor exercise can actually be harmful. Wherever you go, make sure you have warm gear with you; when it’s -5 degrees outside, getting locked out of your house can be legitimately dangerous if you don’t have a coat. If you’re driving, make sure you have a very warm parka or sleeping bag in the car in case you get stuck.
5. Having a dog will make life…interesting
Having a pet in a cold climate is challenging. If your dog is used to being taken on long walks, you might have to get creative with keeping him or her entertained during the weeks or months that outdoor treks just aren’t possible. Games and treat balls can be a great way for your dog to work off energy indoors. My pup likes to go on “field trips” up and down the stairs of my apartment building, as well as racing maniacally up an down its long hallways. Whatever works, right?
Depending on the thickness of your dog’s coat, he or she may need to wear a coat outside. If there is a lot of salt and ice on the ground where you live, your dog may also need to wear boots. It’s a pain to put them on, but at least you get to watch your dog walk around like this:
Small joys, people.
6. Winterize your car, or—better yet—don’t drive
Snow, ice, and freezing temperatures can really do a number on your car. If you have a car, be sure to do everything you can to keep it in good working order and to keep it safe on the road. There are some places where cars are simply non-negotiable parts of life, but if you’re moving to a place where cars aren’t completely necessary for getting around, consider going without one. I’m lucky enough to live in a major city with an efficient (and heated) metro system, and I am thankful every day to be carless. I watch people struggle to dig their cars out of mountains of ice and snow every morning, braving subzero temperatures for 20 to 30 minutes just to get their vehicles functioning. I’d rather bundle up and walk to a metro or bus station any day.
Images: Fotolia; Giphy(5)