When winter starts at Hallow’een and lasts until after Easter, you’ve got to have some good coping mechanisms to save you from getting cabin fever. Averaging a balmy -10 degrees centigrade, the wind chill here can burn your face off and leave your toes rolling about in the bottom of your socks, leaving you with little trotter-like stumps for feet (am I joking though?).
Unlike a Scottish winter, snow is always thick on the ground here and in the cities they have this amazing system that picks up all the snow and takes it away to a big snow mountain outside the city. It sounds dreamy and I’ve always wanted to visit but most people here don’t think it is much of a big deal. What you are left with on the streets is either sheets of ice on the pavement, allowing you to show off your new figure skating skills in public, or piles of salt, which gradually eat through all of your best boots.
My advice for surviving is: fuck it all and go outside!
I know, it sounds crazy. You are thinking: “but it’s -22 outside and I am going to freeze solid and die like those poor helicopter pilots who try to save the Queen in the Day After Tomorrow”.
But in all seriousness, it is worth it. There are, however, some steps you need to take before you are courageous enough to take the icy plunge.
STEP ONE: Leave your sense of style inside.
Style and fashion have no place in the negatives. You can have a fun bobbly hat if you want, but it will probably get in the way when you need to put your big furry hood up against being snow-blasted in a blizzard.
Buy weather appropriate clothing and actually wear it.This is one of the harder steps for me. Classy and warm winter clothes are really expensive, so I just make do with pretty lame and warm winter clothes, which in turn makes me feel sad. Sometimes I forget that feeling warm can be better than feeling classy but the wind chill outside is always there to remind me what a dumbass I am.
STEP TWO: Find an outdoor activity you enjoy.
I have had the privilege of trying a huge variety of sports while growing up and in adulthood and have come to find that I am completely mediocre, verging on below average, at all of them. I stay away from team sports so as not to let anyone but myself down.
Being an enthusiast for life, however, these shortcomings have never stopped me going it alone. In winter, I gracelessly slipper along cross-country ski paths and do excellent imitations of Bambi on the skating rinks in the city. These outings become a lifeline in winter.
What is more, Montreal is one of the greenest cities I’ve ever lived in. Parc Mont-Royal, or “the mountain” as most people call it, is a beautiful forest-covered hill (definitely not an actual mountain) right in the middle of the city. You can cross-country ski up the meandering main path, or take the bus up and explore the ski and snow-shoe trails in the forest at the top.
Even if your sport is the occasional sledging extravaganza (sledging is on another level here), get out there and soak up the snow in your weather-appropriate gear!
STEP THREE: Partake in Quebec’s wintry traditions.
Igloofest. An outdoor rave in the Old Port held throughout January and Feburary, i.e., the coldest months of the year. The beers can be frozen like slushies but they also sell hot chocolate laced with drambuie. Put on your least sexy winter wrappings and get down there and dance!
… Is of course, what I would say if I were still 24 and could be bothered. But this year, Hugo and I planned to go two weekends in a row and ended up ditching because the magic 8 ball said “outlook not good” and “try again later” every time we asked. (It did respond “without a doubt” when we asked it if we should eat pudding chomeur, a classic Quebecois sponge cake doused in syrup, mmmm).
I admit, sometimes, it’s just nice to stay in, watch the snow fall with a cup of tea and exclaim loudly and frequently to your exasperated husband: “WOW, just LOOK at all that snow! Look at it!”. The important thing is to glory in the wintry-ness.