You know you’ve experienced a true Canadian winter when…


You consider it “really cold” when the air burns your face and gives you ice cream headaches.    Or when it makes your eyes water and the tears freeze on your cheeks.

You admitted to scraping the frost off your windshield with your fingernails.   Or with a kitchen spatula.

Everyone crowds the ski hills the first week in December when it’s cold and the trails are barely covered and there are rocks everywhere.  But in late March, nobody goes any more because they’re sick of winter by then.   (Even though it’s sunny and warm and there’s more snow than ever).

Kids, metal poles,  and tongues.    (…Enough said!)

You’ve winter camped and have had to take a crap outside at minus 30C.    And it was much easier to deal with than doing the same thing in June, with the blackflies and mosquitoes.

Your car is still not completely defrosted, but like an idiot, you drive to work anyway.   Hunching over the wheel to peek through the 4 square inches of ice-free windshield forming over the dashboard vent.

November and December SUCK, because it’s dark outside when you leave the house to go to work.   And it’s dark outside when you leave work to come home.

You can’t see through your dirty windshield because you’ve run out of wiper fluid and it’s 20 miles to the next gas station.   You deliberately tailgate a car so that the road-spray moistens your windshield so you can wipe the salt off.

You’ve had frostbite at least once.  And from now on, for the rest of your life, that same spot on your body is the first to get frozen again.

You laugh at Toronto, because those wusses can’t handle snow (Once, they had to call THE ARMY to help dig them out after a storm!)  🙂

As a kid, you’ve spent an hour putting on your hockey gear just to skate on the (10 x 15) foot homemade rink in your back yard .

You’ve lost count at the times you’ve cursed the snow plows, who pile the snow onto your driveway just after you’ve finished shoveling.


If you’re a guy, you’ve peed your name in the snow. (Bonus points for dotting the “i”).

Your resistance to cold gives you a powerful sense of smug when you talk about Vancouver or Southern Ontario (“Oh, them….they’re in the BANANA belt!“)

You enjoy kicking “Smud” off your car (that brownish muddy ice that accumulates on your mud-flaps).

You know all about “getting your skis tuned”, “green wax”, “black ice”, “ice damming”, and “greasy roads”.

When you’re ice fishing, and it’s blowing frigid wind, amd you’re reaching into a bucket of ice-cold water, trying to stick a wiggling minnow on your hook with your bare hand…you suddenly realize that  being at the office ain’t so bad.


You’ve experienced the joys of following a snow-plow on the highway 20 mph.    And trying to pass him while the rock salt goes Ping! Ping! Ping! all over your paint job.

In the East, you’ve seen ski slopes get so icy, you can see the sun reflect off of trails.


You’ve literally ice-skated on the city streets, after a freezing rain storm.

You’ve actually had to DRIVE on highways like this (or try to).

Your hands are so cold,  you try to touch your pinky to your thumb, and you can’t.

You laugh whenever it snows south of the Mason-Dixon life.

In April, when the snow melts, you’re rewarded by four months’ worth of surprises that Rover left in the back yard.   Which are bleached white by now .


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28 Comments on “You know you’ve experienced a true Canadian winter when…”

  1. Mike Goad Says:

    Having never experienced a Canadian winter, I can still appreciate some similar things after spending 3 winters in a little Idaho town 5800 ft above sea level.

    … being late to work because no one in the car pool remembered to plug in their engine block heater

    … having my mustache freeze just walking from the gatehouse to the building I worked in

    … my little Dodge Colt being the second vehicle to cut through 12 inches of new snow on the way out to work — the first one being one of the buses used to carry students out to the Naval Reactor Facility in the middle of the desert.

    … having to shovel the snow off of my roof to get at the ice dam that was causing water to leak into the house.

    My frostbite — or near frostbite, not sure which after 46 years — came after riding my bicycle two miles to school in Nebraska. I do vividly remember the pain when the school nurse used warm water to warm up my ears, so it probably wasn’t really frostbite…, and that isn’t a back in the old days tale. Kids inside the city limits didn’t ride the school bus and that’s how far we lived from the junior high I went to that year.

    I laugh when it snows here, too — and, generally, stay home until the roads are clear enough to be safe from the crazies who didn’t grow up north of Dixie.

    Stay warm!

  2. Kelly Says:


    I loved this list! 4-inch hole in the windshield, check. Tailgating to clean said windshield, check. Being from the frozen U.S. north I’ve experienced about half of this so I was alternately laughing with recognition and ooh-ing in awe of what “true” cold must be like.

    My best ones:
    You know you’re from someplace pretty effing cold when you’re pregnant, going from physical therapy to a class at university that of course hasn’t been cancelled (we’re not wimps), and the cold is so horrid that you’re scraping the frost off the INSIDE of your windshield. As you drive. Because your breath keeps freezing on the windshield. And you can’t afford to be late for class.

    Naturally you can do that without the pregnant part, but it does make leaning over the windshield to scrape quite the challenge.

    You know you’re from someplace pretty effing snowy when said pregnancy ends in the middle of the night in March, during a 12-inch snowstorm, which hubby has to shovel out before you can get to the street to begin crawling along to the hospital.

    And you have your baby by “natural childbirth.” Not because you want to. Because the anesthesiologist had to dig himself out of his driveway, too. And he arrives ten minutes after the baby’s born, saying, “Did I miss it?”

    YES. You did.

    You can’t do that without the pregnant part, so Friar, true Canadian winters or no, there are some joys you’ll just have to trust me on. 🙂

    Is the first photo from your house looking out? That’s a beauty.



  3. Betsy Says:

    What about Ice Golf?! Is that something only Minnesotans do on Lake Minnetonka?

    And, we have the famous Frozen Eelpout Festival – with Ice Racing. Old beaters with studded tires careening on an oval ice track. Minnesotans love to drive on ice, and natural selection ensures some of their trucks plunge through every year.

    My brother just emailed me – they have 34 inches of snow in West Michigan. He’s going postal and there’s another storm coming. Here in Minnesota, it’s literally too cold for it to snow a lot of the time.

    Doing doughnuts in an empty parking lot is fun! And you can always clean a windshield if you’re out of fluid by throwing snowballs on it.

    Great list!

  4. Brett Legree Says:

    “You know you’ve experienced a true Canadian winter when…”

    You hear Brett say, “I’ve seen 39 winters, and that’s 38 too many… when do I move to New Zealand again?”

    I was thinking the other day about winter and my feelings about it. In general, I don’t mind it too much – like a couple of weeks ago when I was walking home from your place on Thursday, it was crisp and clear. You could see the stars, and it was nice.

    That’s the winter I like.

    The winter that gets to me is the very cold very early morning drives in the dark to work. To sit in a cubicle, with very little light. Followed by a drive home in the dark.

    Maybe instead of mucking around with Daylight Savings Time, we should enter the 21st century and let people really use flex time. I mean, after sundown there’s dick all to do in January (at least where we live, right Friar?) – let me work from 7 am to 10 am, then take from 10 am to whenever so I can actually see the bloody sun, then when the sun goes down I’ll do some more work… 🙂

  5. Friar Says:

    Oh, I think Idaho at altitude would consist of a pretty respectable winter (and depending on where you are in Idaho, you mght be further north then where I live!)

    Mustaches freezing! Heh! I forgot that one. (My beard gets full of ice cubes all the time when I’m skiing)

    New England might not get as cold as up here, but they sure get their fair share of Nor-Easters. You guys get wallopped with more snow than we do, sometimes.

    And acdtually, Northern Maine is up there…’s further north than the Soo or Sudbury…it’s almost like Timmins, Ont.

    As for the preggers story…you can tell that to your daughter (whenever she acts up and you want to “guilt” her into remembering all the sacrifices you made for her!) 🙂

    PS. The photo was from my Mom’s house. We came close to breaking a 30 year record for snow that year.

    No ice golf or ice racing over here. That must be a Minnesota thing.

    But some communities do have snow-mobile races across open water. If you get enough speed, the sleds will waterski….the record is something like 2 km I think. (Though I think you gotta be asking for a Darwin Award to participate!)

    Ice fishing is pretty popular here. Not sure what an Eel-Pout is, though (???) .

    We have lings (also called “Burbot”) that look like a cross between a catfish and tadpole. Is that the same thing?

    Gross-looking fish (though they’re supposed to be good to eat).

    PS. DONUTS!!!! Oh, I FORGOT about those! (If you got front wheel drive, you gotta do them in reverse!)

    Yeah, I much prefer the snow on the ground (compared to brown depressing November which is just MUD).

    Yeah, I woudln’t mind flex-time. Sometimes the only sunlight we see is on weekends.

    (Can you imagine living in Finland or the NWT, though?). No wonder people up there have a drinking problem.

  6. Brett Legree Says:


    I think we have a drinking problem already… good thing we don’t live in Finland!

    Then again, we could move to Norway and be REAL Vikings…

  7. Friar Says:


    Maybe that’s why they became Vikings in Norway. Because you HAVE to have an attitude like that, if you want to live up there!


  8. Kelly Says:


    Oh, I was in Iowa then. (Des Moines, the capitol, so no corn and hogs jokes please. Well, okay, corn and hog jokes are pretty funny.) No water to moderate the weather, just vicious wind, snow snow snow, and plenty of ICE. They love a good ice storm in Iowa. Holy moly.

    Rochester, NY had the most snow of anyplace I’ve ever lived but also was the most prepared for it. Over 50″ some winters and nobody ever slowed down. I’ve got a picture of my driveway one winter that looks like a scene from Dr. Zhivago. Loved it.

    New England has nice winters. Enough snow, enough cold, but no reason to get really sick of it. That’s about my speed, though right now as it rains for the umpteenth day in a row, I’d take a true Canadian winter day… *sigh*

    Until later,


  9. Friar Says:


    Oh, you HAVE moved around, haven’t you?

    I’ve been to lots of States. And Iowa…well…suffice to say, it wasn’t exactly the most EXCITING one. 🙂 But if it’s any consoluation, I rank it further up there than Nebraska.

    I had a conference in Rochester once. Didn’t really see the city, I just gave my paper, and got the Hell out of Dodge.

    Bit of trivia: From the Top of the CN Tower in Toronto, you can see the lights of Rochester across Lake Ontario.

    Today is a typical December day. Minus 18C and getting colder at night.

  10. Beth Partin Says:

    This post TOTALLY reminds me of the banter on the last episode of How I Met Your Mother between Robin (the former Canadian pop star) and Marshall (from Minnesota). My favorite image: Robin sitting out on a New York stoop in the cold eating an ice cream cone.

  11. Friar Says:


    I havent’ seen that show yet but I’ll take your word for it.

    Yeah, we still do ice cream during winter. Some of the Dairy Queens shut down here over the winter, but the bigger stores stay open all year around.

  12. Kelly Says:


    Yes, I don’t stay still for long. I’ve lived in (stops, counts on fingers…) 7 states. Longest I’ve ever stayed in one place was 8 years, from age 2–10. That was in Illinois, another place with lovely winters. Plenty of snow stories from there, especially since we used to drive every Christmas back to New England to see the families in Massachusetts and Connecticut. What a drive that is on about 22 December!

    If I’m here another year—and a reprieve doesn’t look likely—this will take over the no. 1 spot, darn it all. I’m getting soft and winter-wimpy living down here.

    Until later,


  13. Steph Says:

    I sit here, home early because every one but three of our auppointments cancelled today and the snow storm they warned about is in full swing. It’s lovely to watch.

    Friar: I HATE winter, as much as Brett hates it. But your list made me almost nostalgic or something. We *have* had some fun times in winter. And though I wish everyone safe passage everywhere they go, I find all these storm systems very exciting. (Though that movie The Day after Tomorrow totally freaked me out.) As did the great ice storm we had in 1998 I think it was? I kept the Canadian Geographic mag that featured that devastation. You can read the facts here:

    Oh Canada!

  14. Steph Says:

    Actually, you should google ice storm 1998 in Canada and click on images. Holy shit.

  15. Friar Says:

    Iowa or Delaware? Hmmm. (No offense, but NEITHER of those are on my top choice of States to live in) 😉

    I probably told you this before. When we drove through Delaware (which took about 17 minutes) I wanted to at least step out of the car and plant my foot on the soil, to say I’d actually “Been there”.

    But my buddy refused to stop….the State annoyed him so much, that he just wanted to get the heck out.

    (To be fair to Delaware, though, all we saw was the Interstate…no exactly the most scenice part).


    Oh, I LIVED through the Ice Strom of 1998 (I was in Montreal at the time, where it hit the worst).

    I remember smashed trees, people hoarding batteries and candles, and green flashes of light at night (as electrical transformers exploded).

    Seems we’re just north of the “Big Storm” you guys are supposed to get. It’s just overcast here and we dont’ even have any snow flurries.

    PS. The Day After bugged me. There were parts that were STUPID STUPID STUPID!!! 😦

    Like, howcum New York City was under 20 feet of water? Yet the President was sitting in his Oval Office (which is almost at sea level), like nothing every happened.

    I guess there musta been a dyke or something, spanning the Atlantic ocean, protecting Washington DC from the floods. 😉

  16. veredd Says:

    I don’t think I could survive a true Canadian winter.

  17. Friar Says:

    That’s why we feel so SMUG up here (because we’re so tough and strong!) 😉

  18. Brett Legree Says:


    You could. It’s just something you do when you live here. Some folks are better at it than others, and if you find a hobby you like to do outside, you can do pretty well (in all seriousness).

    I’ll admit the last few years haven’t been my favourites for winter (winter with 4 young children is, err, challenging – you can’t just dress them up and send them outside when it is -30, and they go stir crazy in the house!)

    If the sun is shining, that’s half the battle really!

  19. Friar Says:


    Half the Canadians try to avoid winter, and spend as much time inside as possible. The rest of the time, they’re dreaming and planning about getting away to Mexico or the Dominican. Those are the ones that will NEVER be happy living here.

    But lots of us dont’ avoid winter, we EMBRACE it. And find an outdoor activity to get outside and get fresh air. Downhill skiing, cross country skiiing, snowmobiling, hockey, curling, etc.

    I myself LOVE skiing….I look forward to going out every weekend. It’s amazing how fast the winter flies by when I do this. I’m even sad in April when the snow melts, because I’ll have to wait another 8 months to ski again.

    And not every day is miserable and bitter cold. Once you get over the hump (mid February) it starts to warm up again…The days get longer, and late March can be downright delightful. Imagine spring skiing in a T-shirt, and sipping wine or drinking beer out on the deck.

  20. Brett Legree Says:

    Friar’s right about that – though I’m well known for not loving winter – a positive attitude can help.

    Though I will say this – as the price of heating fuel edges upwards each year, faster than my income edges up, the positive attitude isn’t always enough to compensate… at least when it’s hot, I sweat and then I cool off!

    Sadly, when it is -40, fire doesn’t shoot out of my pores!!!

  21. Beth Partin Says:

    Friar, you make winter sound almost appealing. I’m not a great fan of winter, but I prefer Denver winters to Kansas City or Washington, DC, winters, because the dryness makes it seem less cold.

    I don’t ski, but I do love to snowshoe. So I’d be able to survive a Canadian winter if I had to.

  22. Friar Says:


    Oh, I’d LOVE to be in Denver in the winter! I’d be hitting the ski slopes all the time!

    Winter with no moutains (or no forests) like Kansas City would kinda suck, though.

  23. t.sterling Says:

    Some of those on your list applies to people who live in New England… and if the heat doesn’t work in your car. I had ice on the outside of my windshield and frost forming on the inside. I barely had the 4 inches, so I struggled to see the curb and oncoming headlights to know where I was in the road. Oh, and my side windows were frozen shut, so I couldn’t drive like Ace Ventura either. Fortunately I didn’t have far to go, but I would’ve crashed if I did. Black ice was involved.

    So yeah, I guess we get semi-Canadian winters here. I’ve experienced a little more than half of that list. Good times.

  24. Friar Says:


    Well, arguably parts of New England have even harsher winters that parts of Southern Canada. (New England is a a bit further south, but with the moutains, the climate’s harsher).

    I used to live in Montreal. It could be mid-May and 80 degrees outside. But then I’d go hiking in the Adirondacks, just 2 hours away. And at 3500 feet the trails would be blocked with slushy ice that hadn’t melted yet.

    UpState NY, Northern Vermont, NH and Northern Maine. Quite respectabe winters, there.

    We’re in the middle of another storm watch as I write this. Another 6 inches of snow forecast by the end of tomorrow night. It’s not a huge blizzard, but *sigh*, another annoying snowstorm to make driving bad.

  25. t.sterling Says:

    I have a friend up in Buffalo, NY who described numerous feet of snow every year. I guess he grew accustomed to it and welcomed it whenever it came.

    A second snow storm we had in three days is just finishing. And just for you I measured in metrics and Friday night we had over 19cm. Not a huge deal to you probably, but it’s our first measurable snow this year (so far) and I have yet to leave the house since this second storm. It’s turning into an icy mix so I may break my ruler trying to shove it in the snow.

    So we may be up to 10 inches now which I hope last til Christmas… which is probably when I may attempt to drive my car again.

  26. Friar Says:

    Buffalo’s in the “Snow Belt”. They’re on Lake Eerie, so they don’t get very cold. But they make up for it in snow. I used to live in Hamilton Ontario (about 2 hours away). We’d have green grass, and Buffalo would get whallopped with the white stuff.

    We just had 20 cm (starting overnight, and endhing this afternoon). I went cross country skiing in it. Driving is annoying, but not treacherous. (I have All-wheel drive on my Honda CRV, it makes a huge difference). Except when I’m stuck behind people who don’t…

  27. yup, I’m in Illinois experiencing a Canadian winter!!!!!

  28. Friar Says:


    I checked out your blog….Yup. That sure looks Canadian, all right ! 🙂

    Who’d thunk it go so cold in Illinois?

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