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Two Sides of the Coin: Edmonton Winters

09 Surviving Edmonton Winter

Winter > Non-Winter
Jonathon Austin (2L)

We can all recall those moments where we pray for the early arrival of winter amid the stifling heat of a summer afternoon. Then fall approaches, and winter’s creeping chill reminds us of how wrong we were. Snow and frost ensue, Edmonton roads become a free for all as divider lines disappear under blanket of ice and slush. What did we do to deserve this frozen hell?

However, I contend that we need not mourn winter’s arrival as much as we do. There are some positive aspects to the winter months that need to be acknowledged.

The first is a practical consideration. I have often wondered how much work law students would actually get done if we enjoyed nice weather year round. Imagine attending law school in Hawaii or southern California. Bustling patios and sandy beaches would beckon, as readings or papers were postponed (again….and again).

For me, that first November cold snap always seems to coincide with what I like to call “buckle down” time. Buckle down time is that period from November to March where our collective academic aspirations as law students are seriously tested. The unwelcoming outside environment helps sharpen my focus and renders the usually austere Law Centre a beacon of warmth.

But there is more to winter than just keeping us productive. Winter provides an ongoing source of mundane small talk. If the Oilers aren’t playing, winter weather provides an ideal substitute discussion topic. It’s in the collective conscience of Edmontonians, and Canadians do love to talk about the weather.

And, then, there are the more tangible benefits of winter’s arrival. Starbucks and every other coffee joint unveil an assortment of festive and seasonal drinks. Peppermint and spice abound in nauseating doses. You order a vanilla-eggnog-candycane-snowflake-latte and wonder why in the world you didn’t stick with a bloody drip coffee.

The joy of a solo late night winter walk cannot be understated either. I’ve always been amazed at the ability of snow to dampen the otherwise constant hum of my neighbourhood. The crunch of snow under my boots, and my own breath are all that remain audible as I plod along.

Neighbourhood outdoor rinks begin to open up as well. Skating on an outdoor rink provides a heightened sensory experience that far outshines any indoor rink. The ice is substantially harder but your strides produce a symphony of sound as your blades shatter the surface.

And finally, winter functions to increase the appeal of otherwise simple pleasures. A cold beer or glass of wine in front of a fire becomes an almost religious experience. The smell of your roommate’s typically bland meatloaf is suddenly irresistible, as you key in from the chilly outdoors.

Edmonton winters are certainly not for the faint of heart, but there is still some enjoyment to be derived from them.

Non-Winter > Winter
Jim Jeffrey (2L)

That winter sucks is just a fact. No, believe me. You know this is true. But we’ve been hard-wired to believe that winter ain’t all that bad. That we’re tough Canadians, and that winter makes us stronger. That “You wouldn’t appreciate summer if it weren’t for winter.” No. That is hogwash. Summer year-round would be awesome. It would be awesome forever.

Let’s face it: weird people think winter is greater than spring, fall, or summer. Seriously though. I’m talking about people who like darkness, the bitter pain of frostbite, and the uncomfortable sound of snow crunching beneath their feet. These must be the kind of people that either don’t drive or drive monstrous 4x4s, and thus don’t have to worry about careening into a barricade or another vehicle when conditions inevitably become slick. In this piece, I’m going to argue that winter months are better than non-winter months. Duh.

Things look better during the non-winter months.

Everything just looks better during the non-winter months! In the summer, the trees and grass are luscious greens and the skies massive blues. The sun shines more often and for longer, hooking us up with that vitamin D that makes us so happy (and we’re outside to soak it in!). In the spring and fall, we’re blessed with trees, shrubs, etc., that are multi-coloured: brilliant yellows, reds, oranges, and greens.

But what about the winter? Everything looks bleak. It’s grey outside; the trees and shrubs are leafless and lifeless, and the snow that does fall quickly turns a kind of greyish brown from all the crap they put on the roads. When it’s not incredibly grey outside, it’s sunny and you’re blinded by the sun’s reflection off the mounds of snow on the ground. Not to mention how miserable everyone looks during the winter.

You can actually do stuff during non-winter months.

Really though. With the exception of skiing, what do winter months offer than non-winter months don’t offer? In the non-winter months, you can step out of your door (in nothing but a t-shirt and shorts) and proceed to do any awesome thing you choose: a music festival, a soccer, football, or baseball game, camping and hiking, chilling by the lake or river, etc.

In the winter, you can’t just step out your door. You need to grab your insulated boots, your massive/constricting jacket, your scarf/toque/mitts. It’s exhausting! The only saving grace is comfortably wearing long johns. Those things rock.

In general, you feel way more freedom during the non-winter months to go out at night because you know that, even if things hit the fan, you can just chill and wait for a cab outside or walk home. In the winter, you have to plan carefully. You have to cab or drive to your bar/club/restaurant, hope to God that there are insignificant lineups, and cross your fingers that a cab is accessible at the end of the night.