Spring is appearing to approaching this city earlier than expected and I thought I would make few more comments on winter before it leaves us entirely this year. I wrote this post in January and then saved it wondering if it was something worth posting but after few discussions with friends about how warm it is getting but not warm enough to forget wearing undershirts or socks to protect against the chill I began to think it was worth sharing:
Just so we are on the same page once you ascend into a northern winter you can never really go back. Summer does a pretty good job of erasing cold winter memories in Edmonton with the amazing long days of sunlight but on the flip side the short days and cold nights begin to wear you down and make you feel like you dreamed about a glorious friend called summer. I realize every place you live in has its advantages and disadvantages but generally it can be tough to remind yourself of these amazing things when temperatures dip below -25 (-13 fahrenheit). In Canada I have lived in Halifax and Edmonton so my northern winters are regulated to those experiences. But I can assure you I am an encyclopedia of weather survival strategies as any other good Canadian – like what to do when ice crystals form on your eye lashes and they start to solidify together so much so that you can’t open your eyes when walking on treacherous icy sidewalks. That’s a fun one. So while this might be a needless reminder to most about the every day I think it’s worth thinking about regardless.
Winter technically doesn’t start until Winter Solstice for scientists and astrologers but my body says winter starts when it snows. Which is typically two months earlier near the end of October if you live in Edmonton. Generally if you participate in Halloween as a kid, you or your parents were trying to think of clever ways to incorporate a parka into the ensemble as it begins to snow around that time of the year.
People who do not live in cold weather climates always ask how we get around and deal with the extreme weather. I dealt with this question a lot in Los Angeles so I had time to think about it while the temperatures stayed on average around 20 to 25 degrees (68 – 77 degrees fahrenheit) year round. There are various answers to this question, but I think the most basic answer is time. We get around just fine, but it take a lot more time. It involves strategy, discussion and experimentation. For example: When deciding what to wear you have to think about where you are going that day. Will you be walking, busing or taking a car? Each of these answers will have different strategies for proper attire. Do you wear thicker socks or wool socks. V-neck with an undershirt or a turtle neck (super 90s but I wish the turtle neck would come back). Thin pants with snow pants on top or leggings or nylons underneath the pants? I’m not even begging to think about fashion at this point. Solely the idea of staying warm first, and maybe fashion second …. if there’s time.
Another example is transportation: If it’s the bus you have to ask yourself if you have enough clothing to keep you warm if the bus is late or doesn’t show up, and if your shoes are warm enough for the walk to and from the bus. My friend, Eleisha, said last year that she got frost bite on her eye balls walking to the bus because of the wind…….on her eyeballs!! If you are driving you have to predict the traffic because the roads could be icy and that will take even more time because people will drive more cautiously. You also have to make sure your car is prepared and will have to have items like a snow brush, emergency blanket, jumper cables or an extension cord to keep your car battery charged so it doesn’t freeze -most people only have a variety of these options but I can assure you each of these items are necessities for road ready winter survival. You also have to be ready to jump out of your car at any time to help push some one out of the ditch or mentally prepare yourself with the fact that your chances of being in a collision with the possibility of death due to slippery roads or low visibility is a daily situation. All of these things take time due to careful planning and some days it works out and on the days it doesn’t you take a hot shower when you get home and plan some more for the next time.
You also talk about aspects of winter every day. In my yoga class they talk about using ujjayi breathing to help keep you warm when you are outside. When discussing where to get lunch with a friend or co-worker you strategize the warmest route to take if you are walking. If you are planning on sledding/cross country skiing/running/winter biking on the weekend you discuss the best types of equipment to use, the best places to buy said equipment and the best type of snow or trails to visit. Usually though you are only outside for an hour or two and planning the event takes longer than the event itself . People will also have a million strategies on how to keep your house warm, hands warm, feet warm….so and and so on. For example people will brag about how cool they keep their house when they are not in it (some say as low as 10 degrees/50 degrees fahrenheit) and how minimally warm they keep it when they are occupying it (15 – 18 degrees / 59 – 65 degrees fahrenheit) as a way to save on energy costs. I do not do this (that is crazy) but your energy bill and your budget will love you for it. I can assure you it is a boring as it sounds and it is a thing.
BUT luckily Alberta is the sunniest province in the country so we have plenty of beautiful days. 325 days of sun to be exact which helps battle the 151 days of winter. During the day we have plenty of clear blue skies and I heard that you feel 10 degrees warmer in the sun so it’s a yin and a yang. Most people ignore the above strategies that I have listed. After a while people start to learn what they can live with for when they head outside. For example my brother and mother refuse to buy a winter coat. Not sure what their deal is but in the mean time I am just fine with my layered attire: undershirt (to protect against chills), t-shirt (presentable front), sweater (to ease the evening drafts when the sun goes down), and scarf (acts like a blanket to wrap around during the day and draft protection from the wind on my neck when outside) with a winter jacket for when I head outside. I won’t even begin to explain my bottom half ensemble to save you the trouble and leave you to think about your own winter survival strategies.