Saturday, November 2, 2013

Advice for Those New to Northern Winters

A friend of mine just moved to Maine from the south and is preparing for her first real winter.  Yep, about six months of cold ranging from "hey, this is not so bad, I remember a January night in Atlanta like this" to "holy hell, why does anyone live here."  So, I felt like giving unsolicited advice.

Such as: buy fleece.  Turns out this might be a fashion faux pas.  Well, tell me about fleece's fashion faults again in the deep, dark days of January when the temperature is near -40 (where you don't have to specific F or C since that is where the two measures meet) .  Why is fleece (I speak of the fake, made from plastics kind, not the wool kind) superior?  Let me count the ways:
  1. It is light
  2. It dries quickly 
  3. I have to see a good neck gaitor/turtle that is not made of fleece.  It is surprising how important that one piece of fleece is--keeps the cold from getting in under your coat, and keeps your neck warm as well.  Plus a turtle >> scarf.  Why?
    1. It does not unfurl by accident.
    2. It cannot get caught in a garbage disposal (Orphan Black) or ski lift or whatever.
    3. It is easy to put on and take off.  Sure, not great for one's hairdo, but that is lost for the winter anyway with mucho du hat hair.
    4. Not expensive
    5. It does not itch.  I didn't used to mind other kinds of hats, but as my skin on the top of my head got a bit more exposed over the years, the imperative to wear fleece hats increased significantly.
If the fashion police are that extreme, then just get stuff that is fleece lined--coats, hats, boats, pants, etc.  And layer, layer, layer.

The second piece of advice I always give regards the four finger friends strategy--get a good pair of ski mittens whether you ski/snowboard/snowshoe or not.  Keeping the four fingers together keeps each warmer than separately, especially for those times where you have to be outside when it is sub 0 F.  Clearing the snow off a car, shoveling?  These do not need the dexterity of a gloved hand--a mittened one will do.

Car prep: get a place that has a garage or underground parking.  You have no idea how annoying it is to scrape the car's windows from October to April, not to mention shoveling the show off it when there is a dump of a foot or more.  I tend to rely on two scrapers--the small one for quick work or for the tough to scrape and a big one with broom attached to one end to clear the car of snow and ice.  Kitty litter and a small shovel go in the trunk for times where you get stuck in the snow.  And, yes, if you can, buy a car that has seat warmers--a luxury that does not seem so luxurious in January and February.

Get your snow tires on your car NOW.  Do not wait until the first snow--then it is too late.  Every year in Montreal, the first snow seemed to catch everyone by surprise so that the drivers sucked, the pedestrians were stupid and the snow removal folks forgot how to do their job.  After that, people seemed to manage.  But snow tires are fundamental--I cannot believe they actually had to pass laws to require them.  Sometimes people do have to be protected from themselves.  We often found ourselves driving through snow to get south for Thanksgiving, and having snow tires made a huge difference.

Oh, and find some winter sport or activity that is fun, so that winter is not just endless waiting for mud season (that almost spring like time where the snow melts and produces heaps o mud).

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