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The big chill: Falling in love with winter in Prince George

Sunlight shining through trees in the autumn

I’ll admit, my relationship with winter started out a bit frigid.

When I moved into the residences at the University of Northern British Columbia in 2007, the September sun had just kissed the autumn leaves a brilliant fiery orange. By October the first snowflakes had dusted Prince George and the city was transformed into a winter wonderland. It was romantic and novel, a setting plucked straight from a storybook.

You have to understand, I had grown up on Vancouver Island; a place where snow days were rare, and most times snowfall turned to slush overnight.

So just imagine my delight during a whimsical Prince George whiteout. I cozied up to my dorm room window to watch flurries fly while a mother moose and her baby tracked across campus.

Then some reality hit. The days grew a little shorter and temperatures dipped. I was just a mild climate Islander shocked by life in sub-zero. (Really, what did I expect?)

During my first Prince George winter, I didn’t quite know how to cope, so I mimicked the bears: I hunkered down and waited out the season.

In my second school year I moved off campus, which presented an entirely new set of challenges such as waiting for the bus in early-morning temperatures. It can be done, but trust me, timing is everything!

In my third year I clued in. As the old adage goes, “If you can’t beat’em, join’em.” If I wasn’t going to be able to escape winter, I had better well embrace it. Step one? Pick up a snow sport like cross country skiing. Did you know that the Otway Nordic Ski Centre – just a few minutes west of Prince George – is home to 55 kilometres of groomed cross-country ski trails?

It really shouldn’t have taken me so long to warm up to winter because winter and I now have a great relationship. And while I’m not making any promises, I’m even keen on the idea of winter camping.

So for those making the big move, here is my best sage advice for embracing a snow-dusted northern lifestyle.

Four things to consider when house hunting

Snow covered house

  • Is there a garage? You’ll love not waiting 15 minutes for your car to defrost each morning. A carport is preferable to street parking because you’ll spend less time brushing snow and scraping ice from your vehicle. But in either case, you’ll still be shoveling or snow blowing your way to the street.
  • Is there a place to store winter coats, cold weather accessories, and wet boots at the front door or entryway?
  • Are the windows double-glazed? Single pane windows are notoriously susceptible to heat loss.
  • Proximity to transit – if you’re taking the bus, how close is the nearest bus stop? The further the walk, the more time spent outdoors. Brr!

Getting around

Detail of the tire on winter road

  • You will need a reliable vehicle (a 4×4 is ideal).
  • You’ll also need winter tires. All-seasons are not going to cut it. Also consider studded tires.
  • Get your winter tires on before it snows.
  • Does your car have a block heater? Wait, what is a block heater?
  • Do not underestimate the luxury of remote start and heated steering wheels.
  • Do you know how to drive in the snow and on ice? Here are some winter driving tips.
  • Buses run every half hour and during storms they can be a safer option than driving. Check out Prince George’s transit system.

Your winter wardrobe

Dressed for winter in a toque and jacket

The great news is that the snow in the north is a dry snow. Fluffy and light, walking through knee-deep snow won’t leave you soaked. That being said you’ll want to dress for the temperature.

  • Dressing in layers is key as you move between your car, home, shops and the outdoors.
  • Invest in a good winter jacket and set of boots. Pick boots with a sturdy tread.
  • Stock up on winter accessories: toques, mittens/gloves, neck warmers, ear muffs, long johns, etc.
  • Touchscreen gloves are brilliant for using your smartphone in cold weather.
  • Snowy white landscapes are pretty to look at, but they’re also really bright. Invest in polarized sunglasses.

Wintery words of wisdom

Remind yourself that you are living a northern lifestyle. A warm, positive attitude is going to serve you better than a shivering mindset. And luckily, the north is home to sunny blue skies.

Some places don’t have the luxury of four distinct seasons and what’s Christmas without snow? Make sure to pick up a snow sport or hobby instead of hunkering down like I did that first winter – it really is the best way to love winter. Click to here to read more about Prince George’s local ski hills.

Current residents of Prince George – what other tips would you give newcomers? Share them by tweeting @MoveUpPG

Tag Archive: City Living Housing

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