You Want the Cold? You Can't Handle the Cold!

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I took this picture from my kitchen window one morning last month. The trick is to look at the little numbers on the inside. That’s right, –30 degrees Celsius. It gets cold in our beloved river city.

You’re a Hawaiian in an Edmontonian’s body though, right? An island-dweller stuck on the frozen tundra of Alberta. If only nature would understand your needs. Oh well, the only thing to do is hunker down and stay inside for six months a year except for that dash to your idling car. That’s why our merciful Creator invented remote car starters, isn’t it?

Wrong. We have a terrible attitude about winter weather in these parts, and I aim to start changing them! (*shakes fist*) Embracing the cold is about loving where we live and weaning ourselves from our beloved fossil fuels. The keys to enjoying winter are dressing for it, going outside every day, and using wise warming technologies.

Dressing For Inside

This section may be written off by the fashion-conscious, which I completely understand. When I was 12, I did the same thing. For the rest of us, here’s how you start enjoying winter more.

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Conrad Nobert poses for his daytime job as an underwear model (left) and displays his talents as a budding amateur photographer by taking a picture of his sock (right).

I wear long undies and wool socks all winter. Seriously, this is such a no-brainer. Even in a relatively well-insulated house such as mine they dramatically increase comfort. Just do it. The socks are impossible to hide, but unless you’re wearing a dress no one will know about the long comfies under your pants. It’s the adult equivalent of ski pants. Were your legs ever cold as a nine year old? Enough said.

Dressing For Outside

You should have at least two levels of outside dress: from –5 to –15, and colder than –15. Most people wear their –5 to –15 clothes all winter, and just begin running faster from house to car when it gets colder than that.

For the real cold times, get some real mitts:

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Mitts like these evoke questions like “are you going snowmobiling?”. They’re great conversation starters!

Get a real winter coat:

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It’s impossible to feel cold in this coat. Notice the photography skillz again.

Get some boots. Yes, they are a requirement in Edmonton to feel comfortable. Who knew that sixteen year old boys in LA Raiders ball caps and basketball sneakers were wrong?

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Winter boots. Get your winter gear at Mountain Equipment Co-op.

Get a face mask, throw on some rain pants and when it’s really cold, dress like this:

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Now that is a good looking person.

 

Go Outside Every Single Day

I don’t mean sprint from house to car once a day, I’m talking a substantial walk or bike ride outside every day of the winter. When you’re dressed properly, it is very comfortable to be outside, and only when we start embracing our beautiful winter city will we begin to seriously work on our gasoline addiction.

Here are my wife and kids on a “warm” winter day (about –10):

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Good, warm times.

Wise Warming Technologies

There are some fairly simple technologies that can provide a great deal of enjoyment at minimal environmental and monetary expense.

Toasters

Toasters (www.toasterz.net), are these great heating packs that emit heat on demand. Once they’re used up, you just boil them for a few minutes to recharge them. We bought the smallest ones you can get, and they fit great in our huge mitts for those really cold days:

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I’ve had toasty hands in –32C plus wind chill with the help of these phase-changing heat packs.

 

Wheat Bags

If your house is cold and drafty or your have cold feet after a cool winter walk, wheat bags are a great, locally-made way to get that cozy comfy feeling. We bought ours at the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market from Ada’s Creations. Their stall is in the northeast corner, right across from the hothouse tomato stand. Wheat bags are simply cloth bags filled with wheat kernels that you pop in the microwave for three or four minutes.  The wheat warms up and stays warm for 20-30 minutes.

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A wheat bag from Ada’s Creations. It looks like a frog but it feels like heaven.

A warm blanket and one of these puppies is all you need on a cold winter evening in front of the TV. Save energy by warming up a wheat bag instead of turning up the heat.

Winter – Good Times Are Here to Stay

Fossil fuels make us hate winter. The more you hide from winter in the heated shopping malls and office buildings, the more you huddle in your truck at the Tim Horton’s drive-through, the more often you decide to hide from the outside, the more you will hate what you’re hiding from.

On the other hand if you embrace the joys of winter by dressing right, going outside every day, and using wise, energy-efficient warming technologies, you will start to have fun again. After all, how many kids do you know who hate winter? Like in so many circumstances, the green way is the cheapest, most fun way to go.

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I finally got around to buying a great, knee length down-filled parka from a very good Canadian 'outdoors' company. I am NEVER cold from the knees up anymore (and I spend time outside daily). Next year I will invest in some good boots, to go with it.

Anyways, thanks for this informative post. The constant onslaught of recession-themed bad news has been getting me down lately, and this was a nice change of pace (the last picture made me laugh, too). Keep up the good blogging!

Love this!! Ok, so I know I was just fantasizing about escaping to a Costa Rican eco treehouse village and all, but I do love winter activities and the crystalline beauty of this season. Conrad's right - it's all about bundling up and layering. On frigid days, I put both toques and my hood on, plus fleece lined snow pants.

And to get out more often in the winter, it helps to have a couple of huskies frolicking in the drifts. This past week, I set a cross-country ski track in our dog park so I can ski while the pups meander - it's been great!

Hi there Conrad,

I was so pleased to discover the Green Edmonton site today, and in particular to read this post. Having just last week moved to Edmonton from Vancouver, I have been bracing myself for the cold winter ahead. I spent many winters as a child in both Alberta and Manitoba, so I am well familiar with the concept of a snowy winter and am, in fact, greatly looking forward to experiencing that again. Having lived on the relatively warm, temperate west coast for the past 20 years, however, has left me feeling a little nervous about my ability to 'handle' the cold. Your post has provided me with some really practical suggestions for keeping warm and well this winter, and has really got me excited about the cold, crisp months ahead :) Thank you!

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