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13 Tips for Surviving Winter in a Cold City (From People Who Know Best)

"If you don't enjoy the snow, you get just as much snow without any joy."

By Winona Dimeo-Ediger on December 17, 2018

Here at Livability, our #1 goal is helping people discover their best place to live. Every year, we analyze thousands of pieces of data and study the latest relocation trends, generational shifts and job opportunities to create our Top 100 Best Places to Live list, as well as the Top 10 Places to Retire, the Best Affordable Places to Live and many more rankings and articles.

The cities we highlight are absolutely, awesomely, indisputably great places to live. 

That being said, a lot of these great places to live – places like Fargo, Rochester and Des Moines – come with a bit of a catch: they get really, really cold in the winter. 

Does a few months of extreme cold negate all the amazing things about a city? No, but it definitely makes some people think twice about relocating. We totally understand, which is why we wanted to get the scoop on how to make the best of the cold months from those who know best: the people who live in really cold places.

Here are 12 tips for not just surviving, but thriving, no matter how low the temperature dips:

Stay busy. If you’ve been considering a new hobby, go ahead and commit now during the colder months, especially if it has recurring events that will get you out of the house and keep you excited. A few ideas: weekly swing dance lessons or an indoor kickball league. 

Also: don’t be afraid to travel. You can still travel to new places during the winter months, keeping in mind that weather could delay your plans. As cliche as it sounds, considering “leaning in” to all the cold, wintery stuff – rent a cozy cabin with a wood-burning stove and fireplace, snowshoe to a yurt, plan a winter brewery road trip, wear flannel shirts, make warm apres ski drinks.”

-Sarah, Longmont, CO

Make friends with foodies who will relish in spending a snowy day cooking a decadent meal. This is especially great if your foodie friends live around the corner – so you can trudge through the snow or drive five miles an hour to get to their house. Nothing can make you forget sub-zero temperatures like a delicately prepared lamb stew, a lot of wine and great conversation. And of course, don’t forget to return the favor.” 

-Jamie, Toledo, OH

“Really, actually investing in high-quality items that will make the weather bearable. No winter coats from Old Navy or boots from Target. You need Sorels and a proper parka or a real wool coat! There’s no bad weather, only bad clothes.

-Sarah, Minneapolis, MN

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Heated sheets. A snow blower, which is an indulgence on my city-sized lot. I saw someone post something that said, ‘If you don’t enjoy the snow, you get just as much snow without any joy.’ Which seemed like a quaint little idea. But the tradeoff for winter, for me, is spring and fall. And a chance to wear warm hoodies.” 

-Matt, Oak Park, IL

“As a former Minnesotan, not enough can be said in favor of ‘winter gear.’ It’s going to be cold, so you might as well dress for it.

Here are my recs for daily wear late Nov to early Apr: a coat that covers your rear end, preferably knee length and made of felted wool. Mittens for snowboarders because you’re going to be scraping snow and ice off your car. A hat, a big thick hat. Neckwear, something that tucks into the top of your coat and can be pulled up over your nose. Boots, knee-high if you can. Bonus points if they’re cute, but if they’re kinda terrible looking they’re probably going to be really warm. Wear them with wool socks. If it’s remotely sunny, gear up and go for a walk. Even though it’s freezing, the fresh air will be nice.

Final tip: hot yoga.”

-Darcie, Minnesota

WHISKEY. Or wear a base layer … that has a pocket for a flask of whiskey.”

-Michael, Poughkeepsie, NY

“A friend of mine made a Facebook group a few years ago called *Winter Plan* and invited a bunch of people. The idea is to search out and share things to do so that none of us get stuck in that winter rut. We’ve had everything from movies and concerts to trying dogsledding and curling. It’s cool because it’s crowdsourced and you can pick and choose things that interest you, but also there’s always at least one other person interested in each thing, so you always have a friend and no excuse. I love it because there’s no excuses – you can’t say nothing is going on or no one wants to do anything. And it gets you excited for things coming up you might never had tried. It’s how I started curling – someone posted a ‘learn to curl’ event and I bought it for my husband and me.

My favorite ridiculous indoor piece of clothing is what I call my roblanket. I mean, it’s just a zip-up robe, but it has pockets and room to move and doesn’t fall open and I can still move around in it. I can cook in it or curl up on the couch. It’s not bulky and I don’t have to deal with a belt or anything. It’s the little things.”

– Nicole, Milwaukee, WI

Keep a tube of chapstick in the pocket of every coat! My grandma relayed this tip to me when I was a kid and I had pockets full of Lipsmacker flavors. It’s a rule I still abide by because cold, dry air can make your lips especially chapped.”

-Brittany, Westminster, CO

“Bundling up is key. Warm socks and waterproof boots. And a good balance between spending time indoors and outdoors. Find a winter sport that you like so that every time it snows or that it’s cold enough you’re excited to get out there and ski/skate/hike whatever.”

-Anabel, Montreal

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Learn to love it. I live in Portland now, but I grew up in Idaho and spent 11 years in Central Oregon. The key to saving my sanity was learning how to play in the snow in a way that I really looked forward to. Take up cross-country skiing, snowboarding, downhill skiing, snowshoeing, snowshoe running, or if you are a runner, get Yaktrax and experience the exhilaration of running on ice. I fell in love with cross-country skiing and strapping Yaktrax on for trail running on ice. Seeing the remote outdoors in the winter is truly magical.

-Annette, Idaho and Central Oregon

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An electric blanket on the bed and Nordstrom “butter” slipper socks!”

-Katie, Jersey City, NJ

Get outside every day, even when it’s freezing and you don’t want to leave the couch. Even just a walk to the corner go get a coffee helps stave off winter blues!”

-Claire, New York, NY

Stop at the bar on your walk home from the subway. That is, no joke, a philosophy for surviving NYC winters.”

-Dustin, NYC

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