Tips for Surviving Winter in MN


Some might confuse Minnesota for the South Pole, but there is a distinction between the two: One actually has a population that chooses to live here full time. 

Yes, as we are entering our FIFTH month of winter and after what fees like an eternity of subzero temperatures, I thought it might be helpful to share a few tips of surviving the remaining 2, maybe 3 more months we have to look forward to. 

1. Don’t let the media fool you, Polar Vortex is just another name for Arctic Clipper, and that’s no big deal, is it? I mean, we’ve been living through Arctic Clippers for years. Its an old friend to us in the upper mid-west. Polar Vortex sounds ominous and serious, but don’t be fooled by the media’s attempts to sensationalize, it really is nothing more than a regular old clipper coming down to visit from the north pole.  

2. Snow has many textures, and it’s prudent to learn which are necessary to get off your walkway ASAP, and which can lay there until you actually feel like shoveling. Wet snow is a back breaker, but your back will truly break if you leave it until the next day and it has turned in to a sheet of ice in the overnight subzero temperatures. (We get those a lot, subzero I mean) I recommend shoveling the nasty wet slop before nightfall. My husband’s broken rib agrees. 

3. Sunshine, does not mean it’s warm. In fact, it usually means the opposite. Don’t be tricked in to thinking you are getting a reprieve from the ‘Polar Vortex’. Oh no, it is likely -20 out there, so dress accordingly. Mittens are not optional and no sticking tongues to flagpoles. 

4. In -20 degree temperatures, boiling water really will turn to dust. I can attest to this fact, having actually done it. It was my early years of living here, when I still had enthusiasm and curiosity about the oddities of living in a frozen hell. (I hadn’t realized it was hell, but now I know better) My children were younger, in elementary school and I had read about this amazing phenomenon: If you boil a cup of water, throw it in to the air in -20 deg temps, and it will vaporize. Well, let me save you having to live here, it does. Moving on. 

5. Snot can freeze in your nose. Tear drops will turn to ice. Yes, its not many places that can brag about such amazing feats of nature. When my friend called one year complaining about being so cold (50 deg) and that she had her heating blanket on, I politely informed her that the snot hadn’t frozen in her nose, as had mine, going out to get the mail. Silence, then nervous laughter. There really isn’t a comparison to that, now is there? No, there isn’t. Moving on. 

6. Do not leave unopened bottles of water in your car, and for the love of pete, never carbonated beverages. Not unless you are curious to see the physical results of water expansion up close and personal. All over your car. 

7. Never judge an eskimo. They have polar survival down pat. Fur actually works. New modern materials are a godsend also, but a pair of woolen socks and fur lined boots will keep your little piggies toasty warm, and prevent frostbite. Hate fur? Try living here, then come talk to me. You’ve not seen the damage frostbite can do. Purple/black toes of the dead? Don’t judge until you have live the life. Trust me on this. 

8. Never underestimate the power of wind. There is a vast difference between -20 with no wind, and -20 with wind. I recommend staying inside. There are all kinds of ways to deal with -30 to -50 wind chill, but why? Why not stay inside and just pretend you are living somewhere else? Thats my recommendation, and something I’ve practiced many times over the years. It works. Go with what works. 

9. Forget fashion. I’ve looked at the fashion magazines for winter clothes and I laugh. Heartily. Winter fashion is for southern climates. Up here, with the Arctic Clippers for companionship, its best to be warm. For about 6 months we all resemble the michelin man more than humans, but hey, we live to survive another year. Resign yourself to boots and sweaters. When you make that mental shift, you’ll be so much happier. That, and its a free pass to eat more. 

10. And finally, winter never really ends. Sure there are some years (like last year) when it snowed in May, so it literally felt like winter would never end. But, I’m talking more about a state of mind here. Winter never really leaves your mind, no matter the season. When it finally releases its grip to spring, all the talk is about what an awful winter it was. During summer no matter how nasty, unbearably hot and humid it becomes, (90deg + 80%humidity is not unheard of here) comments always fall to “It could be -20”. All of fall is spent trying to eek just a few more moments of warmth before the world sinks into the sub-zero. One never really escapes winter here, so stock up on vodka and let the party roll. Hey, it works for the Russians, right? 

Fitness Buddies

In the past when the flurries began, I would hole up in my little homestead to wallow in depression, eat, getting fat while waiting for the stimulating and motivating warmth to return. As part of the mental reboot achieved at camp this summer, my desire to never return to the the larger clothes size and feeling older than I look, outweighs my loathing of the cold. So, as one of my trainers would say ‘Suck it up Buttercup’! I donned walking mittens and a hat, warm wooley socks and dressed in layers. I leashed up my ‘kids’ and off we went, trying to enjoy the season as best as possible. 

Walking Little Mister always starts off a little rocky, it’s more like trying to herd cats than it is actually walking a dog. Small distractions, like sticks, only feed a puppy’s natural ADD. 



Finally, we settle down, and actually walk, albeit the amount of ground he covers, criss crossing back and forth, vastly outmatches my distance. 




I change the routes occasionally, this time heading towards the soccer fields nearby, which borders on a closed sandpit the City has made a nature area. As a reward for walking on the leash nicely, I let them off leash to explore and run. (Puppies need to RUN) 



I think that face says all…Happy, Happy, Happy. 




After a few ungraceful tackles on Big Girl, it was time to leash up and finish walking. 

Who knew fitness could be fun? Well, it can be…when you have fitness ‘buddies’. 

Day Dreaming

Day Dreaming

As I sit, sipping my steaming morning cup of caffeinated elixir, I look over and there is Little Man gazing out the family room window.

Winter came screaming in to the area this last Sunday, and as a puppy born in summer, he has never experienced the presence of old man winter.
So, as he sits there puzzled, staring out at the light flurries that began a bit ago, I wonder what goes through that teeny tiny dog brain. What does he see? Does he wonder where the warmth went? Does he wonder what happened to the sun and green grass? I know he is marveling over the fallen piles of leaves we encounter on our daily walks. I know he joyfully chases a leaf the wind picks one up, teasingly dancing it in front of his nose, fluttering just out of reach, until that blustery element gets bored and drops it. I giggle at the look of satisfaction on Little Mans face as he proudly displays whats left of a leaf, dangling from those puppy jowls.

But is he aware of the change in season? Not being of the family canine, I cannot say.

I would like to think that he is day dreaming. I favor the idea he is pining for fun by the pool, with his mistress masters lounging nearby like lizards on a rock, soaking up the preciously short summer sun rays. While he may, or may not be pondering that as he watches the flakes fall, I know it’s foremost in my thoughts. It’s just too early for snow.

Sigh. I fear it’s going to be one of THOSE winters.

We may be cursed with an early and long winter, but I am blessed to have four legged friends to help take the edge off. While it may be bitter outside, I have a double dose of furry love to blanket my toes on the coldest of nights. With Little Man and Baby Girl as my loyal companions during the day, and Big Man to snuggle with under the down comforter at night, I will choose to focus on the blessings. In Minnesota, that is about the only way to survive the long, sometimes VERY long, winters.