Upper Midwest and Canadian dopers: Tell me about the cold. How do you handle it?

I was talking to one of my dad’s friends yesterday who is currently living in Pennsylvania and I mentioned that it must be awful cold up there right about now. I’ve been to PA on many occasions, unfortunately, almost all in the winter time. I once flew from Miami, where it was around 80 degrees, to Philadelphia, where it was precisely 0. Pennsylvania is way too cold for me.

My dad’s friend, however, just shrugged it off and said it wasn’t very cold, especially not compared to what he grew up in. He grew up in northern Illinois. And when he mentioned it, I remembered how bitter, nasty cold it was up there when we would visit when I was a kid. I remember going ice fishing one time, and thinking we were driving out in a field when in fact we were actually driving on the lake we were about to fish on.

I know some people might say “well, how do you handle the heat in Phoenix?” but I don’t think the two are comparable.

It never gets so hot here that my car won’t start.

It never gets so hot that I have to fear for my life if my air conditioner breaks in the night or my car breaks down somewhere (though we do carry water in our cars at all times.) We have heat-deaths here but it’s mostly very old or very young people and it’s not extremely common.

Basically it never gets debilitatingly hot, meaning we can pretty much do everything in mid-July that we can do for the rest of the year.

I would imagine there’s a lot you guys can’t do in the winter.

How do you handle it?

Disclaimer: I am from Toronto; the real cold weather is up north in the Territories or out in the Western provinces. It doesn’t get that bad here too often.
When it gets cold, we go out and have a big parade, dancing naked in our snowshoes and flinging festive Timbits everywhere…

…honestly, what do you think we do? :wink: The same thing everybody does in winter: we dress up warm, stay inside, drink hot beverages, thaw out by fireplaces. Nothing much different than what your average winter-dweller would do to avoid the cold.

I hate the cold. I can’t go and ride my bike. I get snowed in. I have to dig out my car. Blech. Those Yankees can keep their crappy cold.

How do I handle it? I dress warm and I stay indoors. I also think about how nice it will be to get back to Texas. I only have a little over a year left here in the frozen north.

I grew up in Wisconsin, and throughout my life have either lived there, in Minnesota, and in Illinois. Frankly, how we “manage” isn’t something I think about - you just do it. If you have a garage, you try to keep your car in it in winter to help it start better. In some areas, you might even get an engine block heater to plug in. You dress warmly. You learn to appreciate layering and Thinsulate; winter fashion isn’t an issue, at least for outerwear. If the furnace goes out, you call a furnace repair place with an emergency service line, and you use electric space heaters and/or bundle up in the meantime. You learn to keep up with the weatherstripping and other winterproofing.

Oh, and we do have heat deaths in Chicago, still. In fact, in 1995 during one week-long heatwave, we had over 700 deaths. Fortunately, the city is set up to cope better with such things now.

I do recall that when I lived in Minnesota (Minneapolis, to be precise), whenever the weather would warm up at all in winter, people would flock outside, even just to go for a walk. It could be in the mid to upper 40s, and suddenly the heavy coats would be downgraded to lighter ones, and tons of people would be outside enjoying the “heat wave.”

For the record, Pennsylvania is not part of the Midwest, let alone the upper Midwest. :smiley:

Be that as it may, as someone born/raised in the upper Midwest, one basically learns to how to live in the cold. Otherwise you die (and every winter a fair number do). Besides 0F isn’t that cold. Try below zero temperatures for weeks on end with wind chill temperatures many more degrees below zero. With global warming, it’s not as cold these days compared to when I was a kid, out there at 5 am delivering 100 newspapers in -25F temperatures with wind chills near -60 -70 and -80*F.

And yes, going to and from school at the time was uphill in both directions. I kid you not (think about it).

Oh, hell, yeah. In spring, once the temperature breaks into the high 30’s, low 40’s, I’m out in shorts.

I’m pretty used to the weather. Can’t really say I think of things in terms of “coping”. I like cold weather.

We just… manage.

I don’t drive so I have to deal with the buses, if it gets too cold (below -30C is what I consider too cold) I either stay home or take a cab. Otherwise I plan carefully so I don’t have to stand outside at the bus stop for longer than 5 minutes, if they are running okay. I wear layers, walk fast and take shelter from the wind where I can. Major grocery shopping is done either when I can take a cab or online (thank goodness for online shopping). I also drink a lot of tea and eat a lot of soups, stew and chili.

We just suck it up. Seriously.

I grew up in Alberta, known for its cold winters (although not as bad as Saskatchewan, as I’m sure SK native featherlou will come and relate). I lived in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, for 8 years. It will often get down below -40F (which is the same as -40c). However, once it hits about -20c, you really can’t tell how much colder it is. You wear gloves and boots, and most people have a command starter on their vehicle. You go from your house to the car, from the car to wherever you’re headed, and don’t stay out in the weather too long. You cover the important parts, and don’t give a rat’s ass about fashion in the cold.

Also, in the Prairie Provinces and the NWT, it’s very dry. VERY dry. I feel the cold at 25F in Baltimore much more keenly than I would in Calgary or Yellowknife.

Moving to California worked pretty well for me.


You just have to respect the fact that cold can kill you if you give it the opportunity, and make sure that you are properly dressed, even if it takes a bit more time. Better to have on hand clothes that you don’t need, rather than the alternative.

Also, if you’re new to cold climate, there are a few things that you learn just by experience. One example: I purchased some beer one day, and promptly forgot that it was in the truck, where it sat overnight. All twenty-four bottles froze and blew their tops off. Also, I used to be in the habit of removing my ignition key, and holding it temporarily in my mouth as I gathered my things before exiting the vehicle. When your vehicle is at -30 C, this is not a particularly good idea. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long for the key to warm up. Had it been a lamppost, I would be SOL. Also, I keep an extension cord in the truck, so that I can plug in the block, oil pan and battery heaters while not parked directly near an outlet. Keeping vehicles clean is a problem too - if you decide to wash your car in the winter, if the hinges and door jambs are not thoroughly dried after washing, the doors can freeze shut. There’s been a couple of times when I had to get into my truck with liberal application of de-icer and a crowbar.

Frostbite would probably be the biggest issue, since it is possible for poorly perfused tissues (fingers, toes, ears) to freeze before you realize that they are uncomfortably cold. When temperature reports are indicated in the number of seconds to freeze exposed skin, this is something to be aware of.

Mostly it’s the little things you might not think of, like the ability to do anything with gloves on wherever possible (bigger zippers, bigger buttons and switches, etc.), and the fact that you can’t do anything with water without really considering how you’re going to clean up the water (ice) afterwards.

The weak perish quickly. If they’re lucky. :slight_smile:

(To tell you the truth, the summers are worse. Sticky, smoggy, hazy, humid 30 C days [86 F], can’t do a damn thing but lie under the ceiling fan waiting for autumn. How do winterless people handle it?!)

I thought Calgary was known for chinooks and +10C in January, not its cold winters. :stuck_out_tongue: I have to disagree that you can’t tell how much colder it is when it’s below -20. We haven’t had much for really cold (by which I mean sub -30C) this winter, but last winter we had a nasty cold snap which peaked (?) at -48C one morning. When it warmed up to -35C the next day, it was very, very noticeable, to me at least.

I also think the whole wet/dry thing is overblown. It’s true that in a relatively narrow band of temperatures, from freezing down to about -15C or so, damp colds are nastier than dry colds, but when one gets into really serious cold, the air has so little capacity to hold moisture that humidity becomes insignificant. Having lived in Saskatoon and Ann Arbor, I feel qualified to pontificate on this issue.

And finally, I’d far rather deal with the cold in Saskatoon than the heat in Phoenix. You can always add another layer of clothing, but there’s a limit to how many you can remove. :smiley: I think we need to get Nunavut Boy in here to tell us what real cold is like, though.

I live in Nova Scotia, and it though it doesn’t get as cold here as elsewhere, it gets cold enough for this native. Basically, I do the same as everyone else–crank the heat, yell at the roommates to keep the bloody door closed, and wear a warm jacket when I go outdoors (of course, my legs still freeze, but they’re moving at least). If it’s really cold, earmuffs and maybe a scarf or gloves.

Personally, I prefer it to be too cold to too hot.

You learn to dress warmly when you’re going out, and the rest of the time you stay indoors! Then again, if you’re really lucky, you get to move to Florida. I’m truly living The Canadian Dream[sup]TM[/sup]. Having experienced both extremes, I’ll take perspiration over hypothermia any day of the week.

How do you manage the heat? I loathe heat–be it dry or humid.

I can always get warm, but I cannot always cool down.

I live near Chicago–and we get both extremes. Heat is the more deadly of the two.

Frankly, I had a guy from California break up with me, b/c he couldn’t see living in Chicago and thru a winter(this from a man who went to grad school in Iowa!).

It’s not that big of a deal, really. And you get to wear cute sweaters–which are very forgiving for those w/o model figures…

How do you stand the snakes and the heat and melting of lipstick in the car and the risk of sunstroke/dehydration?

Cry. But not too much - your tears’ll freeze.

Gimme a nice, sunny, clear, -30 deg C any day over a -5 day with wet snow / slush / ice pellets / freezing rain. Driving’s the pits, your windows are never clean, you don’t know if you’d skidding because of ice or hydroplaning, and everything gets sprayed by passing cars. The wet stuff can soak through some winter clothing, and it gets down your neck or on your glasses. Then it all freapin’ freezes the whole town into one solid block of ice… :mad:

Regarding the cold, you can just dress for it. Many layers works better than one big coat; a hat, gloves/mits, and something over your mouth & nose to warm the air you breathe a bit, and you’re fine.

Humidity also makes a real difference to how cold it feels. Everybody talks about windchill, but I’ve been colder in -15 in Ottawa than -30 in Calgary both with no wind, due to the humidity or lack thereof.

The only time I find the cold gets annoying is when they start announcing the freezing time of exposed skin in minutes/seconds, when the windchill goes below about -33 or so. Then you have to mind your cheeks, nose & forehead if you have to shovel the driveway or walk a bit.

When it’s -10 dec C or below, I find that even when it snows, the snow stays dry, and can be brushed off or shoveled easily. At those temperatures, a packed snow covered road will actually give your car better traction than a slushy / icy road at -3.

So to me, once it gets below -5 or so, it’s pretty much all the same…

Its all in what you get used to.
Its a lot easier for someone who works outside to cope than someone who works inside.
Someone invented snowmobiles. Then someone else invented snowmobile suits.
Then came special gloves and boots. Once you have all that stuff the cold just ain’t too bad. Moving around is a chore though. Then there is getting all that unzipped when you have to pee. :smiley:

Mountains of Colorado here. 11,200 feet. Not so much that it gets ridiculously cold where I live, but the snow lasts forever. March, April and May are our snowiest months, spring is a ways off.

Yeah, coping isn’t really they way I would put it either. Worst part about long winters is short summers.

What it takes for me is –
Well maintained 4x4 for me
Well maintained 4x4 for my Wife.
Snow tires on 4x4’s
Plow truck in addition to said 4x4’s
Chains on plow truck.
I rarely ware gloves or a hat unless I’m working outside. But if you need them, you want good quality stuff.
Other good outer-ware of course.
Snowshoes and gators in case.

We heat with propane, and the sun, so loosing power and getting cold really isn’t an issue. We used to heat with wood, so there are lots of different options.