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Preparing for Winter in Canada

Posted by: Gavin Au-Yeung Date: January 6, 2021 Category: Blog

Winter in Canada may seem intimidating for many newcomers from warmer countries. Canadian winters are often characterized by cold temperatures and heavy snowfall. Unprepared newcomers may find it difficult to live in Canada without proper knowledge. Learning about the winter is part of your new life in Canada and it is important to know how to enjoy it and cope with it at the same time.

Recommended webinar: Coping with a Canadian Winter (January 21, 2021)

Winter weather in Canada

Canada is a large country with varying terrain. As such, the winter season is not the same throughout the country. For example, winter in British Columbia is full of rain with average daytime temperatures between 5 to 8°C. On the other hand, winter in Alberta and Saskatchewan are a lot colder, with average daytime temperatures from -5 to -15°C. Furthermore, temperatures can drop to -30 or -40°C for short periods of time as well. Prairie provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan can also expect heavy amounts of snowfall. In fact, the annual average of snowfall in Alberta is between 30 to 60cm. Your Canadian winter situation will vary depending on your location. Checking the weather forecast every time you head out the door will be an essential skill when taking on your first Canadian winter. Note any windchill factors that may severely lower the temperature even further.

Maintain your health

Maintaining proper health is important all-year-round, and more important during the winter season when it is easier to become ill. Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D, something we may not get when staying indoors during the winter. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and keeping hydrated will maintain your body healthy. Many people may lose motivation to be active or exercise because of the cold weather. Try to remain active – whether indoors or outdoors – in order to maintain your desired level of fitness. Carry lip balm and hand lotion if you are worried about dry or cracked skin. Most importantly, avoid catching a cold by staying warm and wearing appropriate clothing.

Wear the right clothing

Wearing warm clothes is essential if you want to get through a Canadian winter. We highly recommend layering up with plenty of clothes whenever you go outside for extended periods of time. It is common for Canadians to wear long underwear, a base layer, a sweater, warm pants, and a parka on top of it all. Covering other body parts with gloves, a scarf and a hat will also keep you warm while outdoors. If there is plenty of snow, wear waterproof clothing to avoid soaking up water from the snow. Proper footwear such as waterproof boots will make walking through snow or ice a lot easier. Lastly, protect your eyes with sunglasses on sunny days. Sunlight can reflect off the snow to create even more blinding lights that may be dangerous when driving a vehicle.

Buying winter clothing can be expensive. Look out for end-of-season clearance sales that occur at the end of winter if possible. Newcomers can also seek out local volunteer or charity groups that collect and distribute clothes. Some examples of these groups are the Calgary Drop-In Centre and Saskatoon Clothing Depot.

Be careful if driving

Driving during the winter can be very dangerous, especially without the proper precautions. It is highly recommended to get winter tires for your vehicle. In fact, it is mandatory to use winter tires in Quebec and mountainous parts of British Columbia. In addition, expect your usual commute times to be much longer as traffic will be slower when snow is on the road. If you park your vehicle outside, you may need to get out earlier the next morning to warm up and defrost your car. Keep your windshield wipers up overnight if you expect snowfall. If you are in a rural area, it is highly recommended that you keep supplies such as a blanket, matches, non-perishable foods, and a printed road map in case your vehicle stops working in the middle of a heavy snowstorm. Driving in the winter takes practice and experience. It is better to be careful and drive slowly than to be reckless and potentially end up in a collision. Check your province for courses on how to drive safely during the winter. For example, this course provided by the Saskatchewan Safety Council.

Embrace the winter

Preparing for the winter may seem like a lot of work, but the preparation will allow you to enjoy the season to its fullest. Canada has plenty of activities that can only be enjoyed during the winter. Speak with other locals or do research online to learn more about winter activities near you. You’ve made it to Canada, now it’s time to enjoy what the country has to offer!

Seek out a local settlement or newcomer services for more tips about your first winter in Canada!

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