The scariest thing about my move from Texas to Wyoming wasn’t whether or not I’d miss my friends. It was the weather.
Wyoming gets snow from September all the way to May. Windchill can get as low as -40° F. It’s a far departure from the “winter” in Texas, which is a brisk 40 to 50 degrees for just a week or so.
So, in the spirit of helping all my warm-to-cold newbies out, here are 7 tips I’ve learned for making the transition from hot to cold weather.
1. Buy Your Cold-Weather Gear AFTER You Move.
There’s no way that Texas will have the right gear for a Wyoming winter. Save yourself the pain of losing packing space to winter jackets and just buy all your stuff in the place where actual winter occurs. You’ll probably get better gear AND a better deal anyway.
2. Learn How to Layer.
The first thing everyone told me upon moving to the cold was to LAYER. A few slightly warm layers are way more effective than one single warm layer. This is because layers keep heat close to your body and provide much-needed insulation. The typical layering system is as follows:
- Base layer (like thermal underwear)
- Insulating layer (like a wool sweater or fleece)
- Shell layer (like a puffy down jacket or waterproof soft shell that goes below your knees)
3. Be Kind to Your Extremities.
Sure, your torso and organs need to stay warm. But don’t forget about those delicate extremities that are super susceptible to cold: I’m talking your hands, feet, neck, ears and FACE. Make sure you have the proper gear to cover them up (and yes, I might go so far as to suggest a balaclava).
4. Try to Get Outside.
Sure, your first instinct might be to bundle up and just learn how to survive under the cocoon of blankets in your bed. But that would be doing yourself a disservice–there are a bunch of fun things to do in cold weather.
The faster you learn to love being outdoors in the extreme cold, the easier your transition will be. And this doesn’t mean going snowboarding or skiing every weekend–try snow shoeing (a form of hiking in the snow), cross-country skiing, sledding, ice skating, or just stomping around in the snow. It doesn’t have to be torture out there!
5. Get a Sun Lamp.
If you live in a particularly cold climate, the sun could set as early as 4pm. Those of us who rely on sunlight as a daily source of happiness know that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is very real. But don’t despair: there are ways to beat the winter blues! Consider getting a sun lamp or light therapy box to mimic the effects of a daylight and brighten your day, literally.
6. Practice Driving in the Snow.
If you absolutely must drive in the snow, make sure you get some good practice in an empty parking lot before you actually have to drive somewhere for real.
Practice handling your vehicle in the event of a fishtail, which is when your back tires lose traction and your rear end skids to one side. Scary stuff.
To offset this, turn the front wheels in the SAME direction as the skid (for example: if your rear is swinging left, turn your wheel left as well). DO NOT overcorrect – this will just cause you to spin in the other direction. It also might be time to trade-in your coupe for a car with four wheel drive.
7. Make a Winter Survival Kit For Your Car.
In the worst possible scenario, you might find yourself stuck in a ditch during a blizzard, unable to get help until the next day. Keep a winter survival kit in your car for the worst of times. A solid winter survival kit should include:
- thermal blanket
- high-calorie, non-perishable snacks
- snow shovel
- ice scraper and brush
- jumper cables
- emergency flares
- road salt (kitty litter works fine too)
- extra pair of cold-weather clothes and gear
- first aid kit