Surviving “Southern Canada” Winter Visits from the Point of View of a Non-Northener to Another

So, this is written totally and unabashedly from the perspective of a NON-winter person for those of you that are also NON-winter people trying to go experience the winter. It’s worth it, I loved it. There are no sounds of birds in the winter, there is nothing, it is the most peaceful thing you’ll ever feel. But, I definitely had a few encounters while i was in North Dakota and Maine that made me want to write this. It was surprising hard to get a concise and useful guide to visiting South Canada. I mean, as a Californian that’s spent the last 10 years basically in the hellish heat of Texas and Louisiana, this was definitely something that caught me off guard. I’ve seen snow. I’ve been in the snow. I’ve gone skiing, but this is different. Obviously Northerners will find this stupid but for a non-Northerner seeking advice, Northerners are actually pretty bad at realizing the BASIC things I don’t know! Feel free to send in suggestions!

  • Driving In or On the Snow and Ice
    • Get a 4WD or AWD, if you have the luxury studded snow tires are the best
    • Obviously drive really slow around curves, like slower than you think
    • If you lose control drive onto the snow humps in the road (don’t stay on the path cleared by the previous tires that has less traction)
    • PUMP those breaks
    • Downshift your gears if you really can’t stop, someone even told me to completely go to neutral to stop the gears
    • Or, just don’t do it…
  • Car Maintenance
    • A lot of newer cars don’t need this, but some need radiator boxes or to be plugged in when you get really subzero to prevent them from not starting (batteries also malfunction at a certain temperature per my Engineering friend)
    • Autostart the car before you go to bed, in the morning and before you go anywhere; the more often it’s on the less time between uses and hopefully it’ll fend off freezing
    • A HALF TANK IS AN EMPTY TANK! Autostart will NOT work under a certain amount
    • I’ve heard some people say they’ll try to put dry/warmer oil/gas in their car to try to prevent it sludging as much in the tank, I have no idea how you actually do this
    • Stand the windshield wipers up when you park your car so they don’t freeze.
  • Dress Appropriately
    • You can put vaseline in your noses or on exposed skin to try to help it from drying out and cracking/bleeding
    • No cotton, period.
    • Synthetics (still works when wet) or wool to regulate moisture, especially as a base layer; down is the warmest but not great when wet
    • Windbreaker layered jacket with down inside – Closer to the knees the better
    • Cover your ears! Ear warmers, toboggan, beanie, that russian looking hat I don’t know the name of…
    • Scarf, vest, hand warmers
    • Keep your feet dry
  • Other Survival Things
    • Don’t go anywhere without telling people
    • Always plan ahead
    • If you run out of gas, don’t be afraid to hitchhike, you’ll die otherwise
    • Get Life360 if you’re really planning on getting out there
    • You should get some boiling water and throw it up in the air when it’s -20F or more outside; it freezes instantly and it’s magical. You’ll feel like a real Elsa, just Let It Go.
    • Basically, it’s harder to warm up once you’re cold and wet than it is to cool off when you’re warm. But you don’t want to sweat too much, especially in subzero temperature when it freezes on your skin… Or coming out of your nose, Gross.

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