The 10 Things You Innately Know from Living with Winter

So, I live in Central New York. (Some might call it “Upstate,” but I beg to differ.) It’s definitely not the snowiest place in America…but it has its moments. This winter hasn’t been the worst by any means. The snowfall, so far, hasn’t been as bad as initially predicted, but the temperatures have been pretty arctic. For those of you who happen to live in a warmer climate or who get minimal winter-ness, here are some of the things I’ve learned from being a lifelong snow dweller.

– The words fallwinter, and spring have no real definition. MWAHAHAHAAAA!!! Calendar?! Ridiculousness. Our Halloween costumes have to be made/purchased at least a size or two too large to account for the puffy coat that we inevitably wear underneath. Heck, we’ve had a snow day or two the day after. So, needless to say, our weather sticks its icy tongue out at pretty much all seasons except for summer. It generally means that we REALLY have to make fall and spring count (and sometimes spring lasts only a couple of weeks).  

– But, wait, there’s more. Just as “seasons” should always be in quotations, so is it that March 20 should not be considered the official start of spring. We often get some high snow totals late in the season (although the accumulation doesn’t always stay as long, whew). So, even when we get a nice, balmy 40-degree day in early March, it doesn’t mean that we’re out of the woods for more of the white stuff. You pretty much have to hold your breath and wait.

– Complaining is futile. Ha ha! No, really. It is. This is a big pet peeve of mine. I don’t like the “why don’t you move some place else?” response because, well, it’s not always viable and when people DO head down south (I’m talking to you, snow birds…you muckety mucks), they call or post on Facebook about how gorgeous it is. When they head back up north in the summer, they say nothing of the horrible humidity or bugs the size of your fist that they’ve escaped. I call them fickle. And apparently muckety mucks.

But, seriously, as with almost everything in life, it’s uncontrollable. Does complaining really get us anywhere? Show your class and suck it up. (I went there.)

– You can instantly tell by the size, velocity and shape of the snow whether it’s good for playing. The best snow for building snowmen and snowballs has a slightly higher moisture content; it’s gotta be packable. The light, fluffy stuff is dryer and won’t hold together. So, yeah. Useless knowledge. Thanks, NY. 

– Weight is your friend. I never took Physics, but living in a snowy spot has taught me a thing or two. I was recently following a pick-up truck (almost every pick-up driver thinks that they are immune to the slippery nature of the season, BTW; they’re often the first heard complaining about how slow others are driving). We were both behind a school bus, and while starting back up after every stop it made, I observed as the truck’s back wheels spun from side to side, along with the flatbed. I also noticed that the front was weighed down by an attachable plow.

So, scientifically speaking, this pick-up was on the small/light side. The heavier front caused by the plow blade + slick road conditions – proper weight in the back = stupid driving conditions.  

I learned this when I had a half hour drive on some very steep hills and on back country roads while driving a tiny Nissan Sentra. Before the winter hit, I always put weight (there are bags specifically designed for this purpose) in my trunk, directly over my back tires. While it didn’t solve the problem completely, it helped tremendously and allowed my tires to grip better and avoid fishtailing. It worked so well that I still do it in my 4-wheel-drive SUV. It surprises me how few of the locals I know do this. Dave didn’t when I met him, and it was totally normal for him to spin out and lose complete control over the vehicle. Obviously, he uses them now with the little guy in the car.

– Slow is a good 4-letter-word. Okay. This is a bone of contention between snow people. Some say that if you’re accustomed to the weather and have your vehicle prepared properly, you can drive the speed limit, or higher. Others feel that if there’s snow in sight – like snow banks anywhere, even when the roads are perfectly dry – you need to drive super slow. I pretty much disagree with both and fall some place in the middle. 

“Slow” isn’t necessarily a hair-pulling trigger; it’s caution and shows that a driver is actually using their head. There can be too much of a good thing, though. So, if it’s snowing and the streets have a layer of it, or the roads are a bit wet and the temps are below freezing, slow the heck down. Don’t worry about the moron riding your tail (except that when you hit an icy patch and are forced to slow, yes, they will reside in your car’s back seat). Black ice is real and it’s terrifying.  

 The day will come when 30 degrees means a party. We had this last week. Several days of below-zero weather, then out of the blue a glorious near-30 day was predicted. “Head for the drifts!” the teachers shouted to their students. A 30-degree day in the spring or fall (or in, say, Georgia) can be unbearable; a 30-degree day in January is downright comfortable. (And don’t even get me started about 40. Heeeaaaaven!!) 

– Cut the meteorologists a break (but do listen to them). When I refer to “meteorologists”, I don’t mean the national weather folks. I mean, pay attention to the ones who know your specific area. For some strange reason, national news outlets have paid a hell of a lot more attention to our weather models this year than in years gone by (and it’s not a worse weather year at all), meaning that they tend to report incorrectly and over-hype every storm. They haven’t come close in most of this year’s scenarios. At the same time, we’ve had one or two “were supposed to get something but didn’t receive a flake” busts, as predicted by our local experts. But, that’s okay. As a New Yorker, you learn that they’re doing the best they can while reading numerous, at times highly conflicting, models. They don’t deserve to be sacked. They deserve a damn medal.

So, yeah, living in a snowy area means that you learn how to read weather reports and generally prepare for the worst (as well as the best) case scenarios. And you generally shake your head every time some fool heads for social media to vent their frustrations…over weather…which not one single person can change or control. 

 This, too, shall pass. Some winters pound you with several inches of snow every other day, with darn-near constant blustery conditions. Those winters, it’s tough to get your brain out of a seasonal depression. (Needless to say, this winter is not this bad. It’s quite cold, sure, but we’ve had some sun, at least.) When those down-in-the-doldrums winters strike, I’ve always been good at reminding myself that one day, it would end. And it always does. Even if you have a flurry on your May 1st birthday (which I had when I was a kid), it will go away. That said,…

– Enjoy it while you can. This goes both for the snow and cold as much as for the sun and warmth. I guess this could also be said for life, but that’s a whole other conversation. My personal favorite of living in a 4-season environment is the change from one to the next. The first snowflakes of the season are magical and exciting. The first warm day of spring (or summer) is soul-charging. As I mentioned above, it will be gone before you know it, so take it in stride and enjoy the beauty. 

What can you add to the list, snow dwellers?
I’m sure I’m missing something! 😉

3 thoughts on “The 10 Things You Innately Know from Living with Winter”

  1. You've hit the nail on the head with all that you mentioned. Some other things that come to mind: everyone's car is officially gray or brown for most of the season (until the first day of 32* or above temperatures when we all meet at the car wash), weighing the benefits every morning of warming up the car to melt the ice and snow vs. the terrible gas mileage you will be getting by wasting all of the gas, and boots being the footwear of choice ever day (and carrying shoes to change into at work).

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