Most people’s images of Canada must include snow. We have wonderful summers , spring last for around two weeks and fall (autumn to my English readers ) is truly beautiful time in the mountains of Western Canada, but winter dominates your life, like no other season when you live here .
Not having grown up here , I don”t ski, can”t skate and fail to see the enjoyment of spending hours on a frozen lake , dangling a fishing line through a drilled hole , hoping a passing fish will take your bait, before you completely lose all feeling in your lower limbs, otherwise known as ice fishing !
The recommended temperature for your household freezer is -18 degrees C . This winter in Calgary is proving to be one of the coldest, in fact the New Year started with a bone chilling -30 degrees C on News Years Day .
Now I hated the Winter when I lived in the UK , damp, dreary days that seem to go on for ever. I still hate Winter ,but surprisingly less so here . I know what your thinking , but here even when it’s very cold the sky is a clear blue ,with bright sunshine . It”s just you need to wrap in multi layers of specialist clothing and put on footwear that look like moon boots, to go out side to enjoy it!
I have learnt to approach Winter with a positive attitude . It comes every year and it”s always a shock to the system when it does . Unless your prepared both physically and mentally, you are in for a tough five months .
Physical preparation always comes too late . Like I said , fall here is beautiful, the colours are amazing and with daytime temperatures still in the comfort zone its easy to forget whats around the corner . Then one morning you look out and wham, there it is , six inches of snow has fallen overnight and the morning commute is a nightmare . Now this shouldn”t happen , but it does , for some reason every year the weather forecast ( which is very accurate here ) informs people of the upcoming snow storm , but it gets ignored .
So whats a the physical preparation? Firstly , winter tyres fitted to your car . In some provinces this is mandatory ,from October ,that you put on a special set of tires for the winter months . Here in Alberta it’s not compulsory, it’s just recommended . Well there lies the problem . You are now likely to be driving on snow , ice or at worst freezing rain for a period of 4 to 5 months and the winter tires are still in the garage! So , every year on the first snow fall day we have hundreds of accidents and the roads are a complete war zone . ( a little like my home country when they have one little snow storm every five years of about 2 inches ).
There after follows a period of time when the busiest people in the city are those who work in tire stores . From dawn to dusk , lineups of cars wait to have their winter boots put on .After a few days of this , people then regain their winter driving skills thanks to the latest in rubber technology, apart from the newly arrived immigrants , me being one in 2006 , who are experiencing Winter driving for the first time . It’s then you ask yourself Why did I move here ?
Preparation number two . Snow shovels . Make sure you have several and they are easily available , because you are definitely going to need them . For the wealthier residents, this means making arrangements with the same guy that mowed their neat little lawns in the summer , to come out every time its snows and shovel their paths and driveways clear of the latest level of white stuff .( One big mystery to me is why people spend a fortune on getting their lawns in perfect golf course condition , only to see them disappear in a layer of snow and ice for 5 months , then re-appear in the spring all brown and dead looking, just in time to start the whole process over again? )
For us poorer people , Winter snow shovelling becomes part of your daily routine . A chance to get out of the house , meet the neighbours and spend twenty minutes shovelling snow into ever-increasing piles . Hopefully you achieve this without having a heart attack , pulling your back out or falling on your arse . I’m not sure of the numbers involved, but all of these things happen to many people whilst participating in this unique , non olympic winter pastime .
Further physical preparations include , getting your heating system serviced , putting all garden furniture away , drain your lawn irrigation system ( why have one in the first place , but we”ve already covered that one ) , change the oil in your car to a thinner one , much better for your engine on cold morning starts . Bring out your heavy-duty power cords to plug your vehicle in overnight ( all vehicles have block heaters that actually heats the coolant and keeps the engine block from getting too cold ) this way the poor thing has half a chance of starting , but only if you”ve checked your battery is still good , most only last a few winters .
Summer clothes packed away , to be replaced by over priced winter wear ,transforming the residents of Calgary into want to be “Scott of the Antarctic”s “, apart from all teenage school kids , who would sooner look cool and feel freezing . Head to the doctors to have your flu jab , seems like all Canadians do this , not the immigrants , don”t know why this is . Finally , all summer toys , fishing gear, motorcycles , camping equipment and RV”s , winterized and stored away , not to be seen for the next rew months .
Now your ready . Well Physically anyway . The secret to getting through the Canadian winter is all in your head . Cabin fever is a very real thing . A claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person ends up stuck indoors in confined quarters for an extended period . In other words, you go slowly mad , looking out the window at tomorrows shovelling task . If you are not Scott of the Antartic, or into winter sports , this is a very real problem . Endless trips to the nicely heated shopping malls, eating crap food ,( A very big part of North American Life ) lack of fresh air and endless series on Netflix all combine to turn your once active brain and body into a useless rotting cabbage.
Now here”s the answer to this problem . Stop feeling sorry for yourself , get off your arse and do something !! It really is that simple . So if you are a negative , wining product of modern society , who is not prepared to face up to mother nature and take her on , forget moving to Canada .Stay where you are, softy !
The first Winter you face will be tough , be prepared , but don’t let it beat you . Grasp it , feel it and enjoy it , because sooner or later she let’s go and the two-week spring time arrives , followed by the glorious summer months . Winter defines Canada and your mental attitude to Winter, will define you .
Happy Shovelling !!
Calgary .Wednesday 7th February 2018. Todays temperature a low of – 17 C currently under a Winter Storm Warning with up to 35cm of snow forcast over the next 36 hours . Get in !