It’s easier than you might think.
Winter: The Real Deal
New England winters are no joke. We get ice storms, wind, snowy nor’easters, and strings of days where the temperature stays in the single digits. There’s salt on the roads, ice and snow buildup on roofs, freezing pipes and black ice.
I’ll admit, there’s a lot to hate.
But with a few slight shifts in your thinking and habits, you can learn to love it. If summer is an adorable black lab puppy, then winter is a rescue dog with fleas, a loud bark and a shoe chewing habit. Both dogs are lovable, it just takes a little bit more effort to love the rescue dog.
I think winter is the best and I start getting excited about it as soon as the Halloween jack-o-lanterns start to droop a little bit. You can learn to love winter too, if you’re willing to put in a little bit of work. Here are my top tips for finding the joy in the darkest months of the year.
Stop Being Cold
There is no need for you to be cold in the winter. We have robot vacuum cleaners and 3–d pancake printers. The technology exists for you to be warm in any circumstance. It takes a little bit of planning and some strategic planning, but unlike crazy fashion trends that change from year to year, your warm cloths will work for season after season.
The first step in not being cold is to stop trying to be tough. Don’t skimp on layers or underdress thinking you can just suck it up and deal with it. Your cozy fleece jacket looked so cute in October. But it’s December now. Time to pack it away. Save bare ankles and uncovered hair for warmer times. You look much better warm and happy than you do stylish and miserable, trust me.
The basics of staying warm are waterproof shoes or boots with socks, a great jacket with a hood and waterproof mittens. I was in Montreal during a cold snap a few years ago and almost 100% of the people on the street had those jackets with a fur-trimmed hood. The next year, I got one too and it turns out the Canucks know how to stay warm.
Warm clothes are expensive, but they can last a long time and will pay you back in happiness far more than a splurge bag or pair of cute shoes that you wear three times. Do some research. Find good brands. Pay the extra for better technology, better materials and better fit. You won’t regret it.
When you’re dressed for warmth, you’ll be a lot less miserable during winter. Instead of pissing and moaning about being freezing, you’ll be able to look around and appreciate the sights and sounds of a cold winter night. And once you realize how beautiful it is, you might be more inclined to head outside for some winter fun. Which brings me to my next tip.
Yes, it’s cozy on your sofa with your slippers and your blanket. But your cozy time will feel even better after you’ve burned off a few hundred calories outside. There are lots of ways to have fun in the snow and ice. My family loves to ski, but there are lots of other low-entry ways to have fun outside in the winter.
Pick up a sled at the grocery store checkout and find a hill. It might take some work to pack down a trail, but once you have that one glorious run from top to bottom, it will all be worth it. And after a few treks from the bottom up to the top, you’ll be rosy-cheeked and warm from exertion.
Snowshoeing is another activity that’s easy to get into. Last year, I had a friend ask me to teach her how to snoeshow. I was happy to inform her that it’s not something you really have to learn — just put on some snowshoes and start walking. It won’t be long until you are panting and sweating and feeling great. Snowshoes can take you deep into the woods, across snowy fields and over frozen ponds. You can find your way to places that are hard to explore in the warmer summer months.
Outdoor running, hiking, making snowmen or snowforts are all fun ways to get your blood pumping and earn that warm winter glow that people in the L.L. Bean catalog always seem to have. One year I made a baseball diamond in the snow in my yard and stashed beers behind home plate. I had some friends over and timed them as they ran the bases and then chugged a beer. Not entirely seemly for a bunch of teachers in our mid-thirties, but it was intensely fun.
With the right clothes and the right activity, you can be comfortable in any conditions. A few years ago, I was on a family ski trip and the temperature dropped to 15 below zero. We had already purchased our ski tickets, so we headed to the mountain. Instead of sitting on the freezing cold chairlift, I decided to put skins on my skis and ski uphill instead of downhill.
A few hundred yards up the mountain, I started sweating. I took my jacket off and tied it around my waist. By the time I got to the top, my mittens and hat were off too. I got a lot of strange looks from people who were white faced and shivering, suffering from the wind and cold. But I was warm and happy! I put my layers back on and skied down, only to repeat the process a few more times.
Once you’re dressed warm, and you’ve found your fun winter activity, you need to find friends to enjoy it with. Deep in the heart of winter, I love getting together with friends on a Sunday morning for a jog, a hike or some sledding and then making a big brunch and sitting around in long underwear next to the wood stove.
We have friends that we ski with every weekend in the winter. We almost never see them in the summertime — in fact, when we crossed passed and I saw my friend Adam in shorts, it almost shocked me to see his bare legs. Our kids pass around mittens, scarves and warm layers and we take turns buying cocoa, doing bathroom runs and helping them wriggle their little fingers through their jackets and into their mittens. An added benefit is that since we’re outside all day, our house is clean and tidy when we get home!
Just do it
You might feel like it’s just too much work to get yourself outside for some winter fun. But consider this: when it’s summer, you have to think about your hair, finding a cute bathing suit, whether you’ve shaved your legs and putting on sunscreen. In the winter, you get to just cover all that shit up and have fun. Everyone looks hot in a parka.
So this year, look past the drudgery of winter. Forget about carrying groceries over the icy pavement or chipping the ice off the windshield. Focus on fun and you might just find yourself looking forward to the first few snowflakes!