Winters in Edmonton
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  Posted December 16th, 2017 by Zdenko  in Edmonton | No comments yet.

Edmonton life


How to survive Edmonton winters
It’s only November and I’m starting to feel the winter crazies. Winter has officially arrived in Edmonton, like it does every year. That’s one season that never fails. And when winter arrives it’s time to take out the warm gloves, hats, scarves and shovels. Edmonton endures very cold winters, with quite a long snow season.

Winter in Edmonton8Surviving winter in Edmonton

But it really isn’t all that bad. A lot of Edmontonians like to grumble about how miserable this city can be in winter, or how boring it is, etc. In a weird sort of way we take pride in grumbling and joking about the awfulness of our city. It means we’re tougher, more stubborn, more bad-ass or something, than people who live in ‘nicer’ climates.

One thing we won’t be doing with these people is apologizing for winter. The City of Edmonton is about done trying to change the weather. Despite over 100 years of curses from Edmontonians it’s still dark and cold for most of the winter months. But it should be embraced not feared. Even on a tiny level, getting outside only for a moment as you run from house to car to office and back.

Edmonton has a prairie-steppe type climate. This means it usually enjoys sunny weather, even in winter, and the majority of precipitation comes in summer.

Edmonton enjoys a dry climate with little of the summer humidity that bothers many people in Ontario. Although it enjoys high sunshine hours, Edmonton’s weather is often changeable – it is also notoriously difficult to predict in detail from day to day. Even in summer, Edmonton’s nights are rather cool.

Winter in Edmonton9Cold temperatures are common forecast on TV

Snow depths of greater than 1 cm are seen on about 141 days each year in Edmonton compared with about 10 days each year in Vancouver, 35 days in Penticton, 65 days in Toronto, 88 days in Calgary, and 120 days in Ottawa.

When you shovel your walk, you don’t have to be a hero. It’s not necessary for you to also fully shovel your neighbor’s walk.

That said, if you make a quick run with your shovel down their sidewalk, clearing a small path for pedestrians, you will be doing a great service. It’s when there’s no clear path and pedestrians pack down the snow that it gets almost impossible to shovel off.

Got it? Good. You’re on your way to surviving this Edmonton winter.

Winter in Edmonton1Edmonton streets during the winter

This may be your first Edmonton winter, or it might be your 51st, as it is for me, but if you’re going to make it to the other side, you’re going to have to get smart. It’s no easy thing to make this annual journey, so to give you a hand, here are some tips (I’m hoping to get some tips from readers as well).

- Two blankets on your bed is good. Four blankets is brilliant.

- Buy plenty of bright lights for your house. Get an extra lamp or two. Turn them all on from dawn to dusk. This kind of lighting will cost you, but it can do wonders for your mental health.

- In my best winters, such as when I was a kid and even in a few of my adult years, I’ve made a point of getting out skiing or playing shinny hockey at every opportunity. Engaging in winter sports changes your worldview so much so that by March, you will be hoping for the ice and snow to stick around. I am not making this up. It’s happened with me a few times.

- Take naps. Lots of them. Hibernation works for many animals. It can work for this animal too.

Cold0167.jpgGoing for a walk in the park…

- Learn the Edmonton Crouch. When it’s icy out and a new snow falls so that a thin layer of snow covers that ice, the sidewalks of our city are killers or, at least, bone breakers and butt bruisers. You’re headed for a fall if you don’t change the way you walk. My advice is to walk like you’re skating. Bend your knees a bit, get your butt down like you’re sitting in a chair, get into what is called ‘hockey stance’ in arenas around the city. Your stability will improve, as will your mobility. Yes, you will look silly. Surviving winter is 50 per cent about sacrificing looking good in order to stay warm and stay safe.

- Convince yourself that tuques are cool. And ‘tuque head’ hair is even cooler.

- If you’re under the age of 30, and thinking this tuque advice is coming from a married 51-year-old guy with little hair, feel free to disregard me. I did the same when I was under 30, and the mighty plume of my full head of hair seemed more important than being sensible and staying warm. The good news is at the bus stop, you will give the rest of us a good laugh, as well as feelings of superiority, and it’s hard to put a price on that.

- If this were Finland, I’d be telling you to sit in a sauna, then go roll in the snow or jump in a frozen lake. There are few greater endorphin rushes in life. But this isn’t Finland, so the best you can do is go from your hot tub, if you have one, for a roll in the snow. It’s not quite as good as the Finnish experience, but we’re better than hockey at the Finns. This may all seem a bit extreme to you, but when it comes to winter an extreme attitude is needed.

weatherProtect yourself during extreme cold temperatures

- Don’t complain about Edmonton’s snow removal, at least not in the first few days after a major snowfall, and not unless you want your property taxes to triple. We built this massive city with 80 billion miles of road. In winter, it’s going to have snowy streets now and then.

- If you can’t get away to Hawaii or Mexico for a week, I highly recommend the tropical pyramid at the Muttart Conservatory.  Or, if you don’t mind getting wet, the Waterpark at West Edmonton Mall.

- On the coldest of days, tuques are also cool indoors. Your spouse will not agree with this, of course, until they try it themselves.

- Stay away from large downtown skyscrapers. The windchill off of them will instantly freeze and peel your skin, as if you were a naked and blistered banana on the tundra.

- If you’re going to be outside for any period of time, plan what you’re going to wear very carefully. At last, when you’re sure you’ll be warm, add one scarf and two extra layers. You can thank me later.

Winter in Edmonton14North Saskatchewan River freezes during the winter

- Never got out with young children when it’s 15 below or colder. It might seem like a good idea, and you might have it in your head to toughen them up, and be full of the notion that you never let the cold slow you down when you were a kid. But forget all that. Don’t do it. Remember: each minute of a frozen child’s whining shaves one full day off of your life.

- Never once complain about how cold it is to anyone else. Believe me, they know. They freakin’ know. So shut up about it.

- There is one exception to this rule. When you get into an icebox of a frozen car and start driving, you’re allowed to loudly curse, shriek, moan or yell out gibberish until the car warms up. Let ‘er rip.

Winter in Edmonton4When it’s not cold – Seat back and enjoy winter

Finally to all my readers in Northern Alberta, minting coin and working in camps you should really pop down here when you do have days off. We have the sturdiest dance floors in Western Canada, the loudest slot machines this side of Reno and a variety of other amenities to keep you entertained. Haven’t you heard? ‘Edmonton is the Las Vegas of the North.’ Who made this quote? I did. Does that make it a thing? It sure does.

Anyway, these are just a few suggestions. I’m working on more. You got any? You can put them into the comments below, or email me at

Have a good and healthy season.

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