winter, winter in Canada

10 Practical tips for surviving winter in Canada

Let’s be honest, winter in Canada can get downright stupid cold. Between the bone-chilling temperatures, copious amounts of snow and very little sunlight, you might start to wonder how we manage to live here. The key to surviving Canadian weather is to embrace it.

It’s easy to give up on life when the temperatures reach minus ridiculous. While it might be tempting to hide under the covers until spring, that’s not going to make your life easier. The sooner you learn to embrace the weather, the better you’ll fare until spring.

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About the Canadian weather

Canadians, even those new to Canada, love to complain, I mean talk, about the weather. I’m pretty sure it’s like an unofficial national sport. It’s either too cold, too hot (yes, our summers can get stupid hot), too rainy, not rainy enough. Too much snow. Not enough snow. Pick anything, and it will work.

winter, winter in Canada

Winter weather and the degree of opinion about it depends on where you live in Canada. If you live anywhere on the east coast, you are snowed in—a lot.  Winter in Canada on the east coast means that you have to shovel snow off your roof, so it doesn’t cave in. True story. My brother lived in Halifax for a while, and he had to do that. However, that is nothing compared to the bone-chilling temperatures in other parts of the country. Winnipeg, aka Winterpeg, is one of the places you shouldn’t visit in winter. Especially if you’re not a fan of cold weather.

winter, winter in Canada
Lake Louise in winter

Winter in Canada, a badge of honour

Living in Canada might seem unbearable to many, but we Canadians take pride in it. We even compete with each other for who has it worse. When it’s -25C outside, and you complain, someone else will laugh as it’s -35C where they are.  Toronto, in particular, gets a lot of fun poked at it. Especially when it snows a lot and the city comes to a halt.

During a storm in 1999, Toronto became the butt of jokes when our mayor decided to call in the army for help. I had no problem with that. Toronto is Canada’s largest city, with more than half of the population born outside of Canada. That is a lot of people who didn’t grow up with winter, winter driving and snow. Shit will happen.

winter, winter in Canada
Winter in Canada can be a thing of beauty.

When it comes down to it, winter to Canada is what you make of it. People still have to go to work, to school and get groceries. As such, appropriate clothing is what makes cold winter days bearable. Layering is key. These days technology, especially in fabrics, has come a long way. Waterproof jackets and boots will keep you dry, while hats, gloves and appropriate face covering will keep you warm.  You might look like a snowman, but you will be glad you do.

10 tips for surviving winter in Canada

So how do we deal with Canadian weather, besides the obvious good humour? Well, winter is long here, and you have to embrace it. Here is the list of tips anyone can use to survive winter in Canada and learn to love it.

Catch a game

When the weather outside is frightful, you can still be entertained by being inside. You can always see a game. Hockey and basketball are huge this time of the year, and Toronto has professional teams that play at home quite a bit. If hockey is your game, check out a Leafs game, although it might cost you a pretty penny. More affordable and, in my opinion, more fun is catching a basketball game and cheering on the Raptors. You might even catch a glimpse of a celebrity or two in the stands. I’m looking at you, Drake.

winter, winter in Canada
Toronto Raptors game

Visit a museum

Museums can be a great source of fun and offer an opportunity to discover something new, especially when trying to survive winter in Canada. From standing galleries to special exhibitions, there is always something to see, do and learn. It gets you out of the house and, more importantly, out of the cold.

You can escape the harshness of Canadian weather with a visit around the world. Toronto’s own Royal Ontario Museum has an extensive collection of artifacts from Egypt and China that will take your mind off winter. Many venues also host special events and offer discount admission on certain nights. Good fun for the whole family guaranteed.

Love museums? You might enjoy reading about Museum in Toronto!

Find a winter sport and play the crap out of it

There is a reason Canada does well in the winter Olympics. When you live in a place with this kind of winter, you learn how to play winter sports. Being active outside is not only good for your health, but it also enables you to go and do something enjoyable. It makes the winter go by quicker and keeps you in a better mood. Win, win.

Alex and I took up snowboarding, but you can also choose hockey, skiing, snowshoeing and skating as well as many variations of these. Winter in Canada becomes a fun activity when you have something to love to do outside in the snow.

winter, winter in Canada
Snowboarding is our winter sport.

Hockey is a Canadian game, and you can play it anywhere. It’s common to see kids playing it all year round, especially on the streets in many neighbourhoods. But in the winter, it’s a different game. If you’re lucky, you have your own backyard skating rink. Or, your friends do. Learning to play outside even when the temperatures drop conditions you to adapt to cold when you get older. Here, you need that.

Go see a movie or a show

When the weather is gorgeous outside, you might not want to spend time in a dark movie theatre. That becomes a different situation in winter. You want to get out of the cold and forget the crap happening outside for the duration of the movie. The live stage is always a choice, especially if you get tired of seeing movies. Add freshly made popcorn, and you have yourself a great night out.

Take in outdoor festivals and spas

Winter in Canada is always doesn’t mean that you’re stuck inside. Many cities and towns organize outdoor events for residents and visitors to enjoy. Ice sculptures, lighting displays, ice skating events and Maple syrup festivals are all the rage. Around the holidays, you can also explore Christmas markets, Santa Claus parades and carnivals like the Bonhomme Carnaval in Quebec.

When it comes to the outdoors, you have not lived winter right if you haven’t experienced a hot spring, spa or a hot tub session with a beverage in your hand and snow all around you. You can enjoy the experience alone, with that special someone or with a group of friends. Who says you have to be freezing in the winter?

winter, winter in Canada
Hot springs make winter in Canada an enjoyable experience.

Hit up the local mall and get social

Malls are not just for shopping, although once January hits, the stores bring on the sales to attract shoppers. They are a great option to walk around, hang out with your friends and once again, get out of the house. Sitting home miserable isn’t good for anyone and can lead to depression—no need to be miserable and depressed.

Malls also have great dining and entertainment options. You can get your shopping done while you work up some cardio, then catch a movie. You can always go for dinner with your family and/or friends after finding those great winter sale deals. Who says you even have to leave the mall?

Winter in Canada is always better with friends. There are a lot of bars and restaurants in Canada. Sometimes your best bet is to go out and hang out with others. Be that a bar, restaurant or your friend’s house. Surrounding yourself with people is necessary for sanity. In addition, you can commiserate about the Canadian weather together. What could be more fun?

Hit the gym

Winter is the perfect time to work off the extra weight gained during the holidays and concentrate on getting that beach body ready for the summer. Many people make hitting the gym a New Year’s resolution, so at least for the winter months, you can expect an influx of new members at your nearby gym. Great time to make new friends, improve your health and find a purpose.

Catch up on stuff around the house

Get an early start on spring cleaning, courtesy of the Canadian weather. There is no better time to finish up those little things around the house you’ve been putting off or hoping to get to. Renovations waiting to be completed? Get ’em done. You can also get rid of clutter and unwanted items now, so when spring comes, you’ll be able to go outside and enjoy it.

Are you staying home? Here are some ideas for recreating travel at home.

Learn something new

With so many classes available online, it’s a perfect time to pick up a new skill or a hobby. Improve your photography skills, learn how to code or take a writing workshop. Want to learn how to scrapbook? Knit? Speak a new language? Options are limitless, and there is no better time to get ahead of the competition, especially if you don’t want to go outside.

Go somewhere hot

If all else fails, the best way to survive winter in Canada is to book a trip down south. Make your friends jealous with posts of having a drink by the pool or on a beach while they’re freezing their asses off. Make a point of pointing it out too. Bonus points if there is a terrible snowstorm at home while you’re away. It’s a good test for your friendship.

While we don’t get great deals on European destinations for a weekend getaway, we get decent deals for all-inclusive vacations to sunny, hot Caribbean destinations. There is no better way to make the winter go faster than a week in the tropics. Trust me.

winter, winter in Canada
Winter in Canada can be spent in a sunny destination

Winter in Canada is what you make of it

Winter will suck if you let it. Yes, it can get a bit much, but to keep sane, you have to go with it. Don’t get me wrong. Given the option, I would definitely pick a warmer place to visit.  As my birthday is in January, I’ve used that as an excuse to go somewhere hot in the past. After all, hanging out on the beach is much better than freezing.

winter, winter in Canada
So relatable

As they say, in many places with long and harsh winters, there is no bad weather, only bad clothes. The truth is, your clothes and footwear make all the difference. You no longer have to wear animal furs from head to toe to stay warm. There are many great fabrics designed to keep you warm and dry without the bulk. Go for waterproof/water-resistant boots and clothes, get yourself a nice pair of warm gloves, a hat and a scarf, and you’ll be ready to hit the outdoors.

Who knows? You might find yourself falling in love with winter. Then, when the next one comes around, you’ll be ready and just a little bit excited about all the things you can experience once again.

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