5 winter essentials you should master as a Manitoban

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Bogged down by too many winter tips? We have trimmed it down to the most essential to help you master winter like a true Manitoban:

  1. Weather alerts

    Starting the day by checking the forecast is a habit you can’t do without in winter. Environment Canada is your friend. You can also choose any other reliable weather sites or apps like The Weather Network. Note the temperature, wind chill, and the general weather forecast. This will help you decide what to wear and alert you to hazards you should watch out for. Refer to the wind chill hazards table to get an idea of the various degrees of windchill and the effect on your body.

    Get familiar with the terms used in severe weather alerts. For example, a Blowing Snow Advisory means that gusts of wind filled with snow can reduce visibility for several hours. This can make driving hard for you. Meanwhile, an Extreme Cold Warning means that the temperature or wind chill is expected to reach minus °40 for at least two hours. This is dangerous if you have to be outside for an extended period of time. Learn about other weather hazards at Environment Canada.

  2. Winter dressing

    Temperatures can fluctuate even in winter so layering is the key. To accommodate changes (even just the shift from outdoors to heated indoors), it is best to wear two to three layers so you’ll have the option of taking off a layer to stay comfortable when it gets warmer.

    Start by investing in a good winter coat and sturdy boots. A toque and gloves are winter musts. If you will be staying outside for a long time, consider wearing thermal underwear. You may also need some ski pants, a balaclava (full face mask) and ear muffs. Hand warmers can also help you. These are small packets that you can buy at groceries and thrift stores that can keep your hands warm for hours. To know more winter dressing tips, read How long can I stay outside in extremely cold weather?

  3. Winter driving

    Driving slowly and having the proper tools and accessories are the components of safe winter driving. Expecting the first snowfall is usually the signal that it’s time to start leaving earlier and reducing your speed. Commuters should also have an early start since buses will go slower.

    Winter driving requires a new set of accessories that will keep you safe and warm, and help your car work at an optimum level. Start by getting winter tires. Accessories like a block heater (an electric heating tool to warm the fluids in the engine), remote starter, seat warmer, snow brush and ice scraper, windshield washer fluid, and booster cables are lifesavers. Pack a winter driving kit to anticipate all kinds of emergencies.

    Additional tips:

    • Gas up more often in winter. Keep it at least half-full, never below a quarter of your tank. Low fuel can get you stranded in the cold.
    • Getting ice off of your windshield can be hard in the mornings. Use a de-icing solution. Use two parts rubbing alcohol with one part water (or three parts vinegar and one part water). Spray on your windshield and windows. Wipe. This mixture dissolves ice quickly.
    • Never pour hot water on your frozen car. This can crack your windshield.
    • Should you leave your wipers up when you park your car at night? Experts say no. If they come down, due to the wind, for example, they can break the windshield as glass is more fragile when frozen. Instead, slip a pair of socks to prevent them from sticking to the windshield or use a de-icer to unstick them.
    • If your car doors are always frozen, prevent it by using cooking spray on the rubber seal around your doors. Wipe the excess off with a paper towel. You can also ask your mechanic to put a silicone treatment on your door seals.
  4. Managing your physical and mental health

    Instead of approaching winter as an agony to be endured, newcomers should welcome it with excitement. You never feel cold when you’re active! This is the best time to experience outdoor sports such as skating, snowboarding and skiing. Tobogganing with your kids is a fun and inexpensive way to spend some quality time with them. Even just walking around the neighbourhood and admiring the winterscape can be enough to lift your mood.

    Aside from welcoming winter, practical measures like proper nutrition, exercise and vitamin C (consult your doctor first before taking supplements) can help you. Also, get the COVID-19 vaccine (and boosters) if you haven’t yet, and a flu shot before the onset of the cold and flu season which usually comes towards the end of fall.

    Moisturizing is not just about preventing wrinkles, it’s also about avoiding wind burn and cracking, itchy skin. Make sure to use lotion, petroleum jelly, or ointments especially if you need to go outdoors.

  5. Home care and safety

    Winterizing your home – insulating, weather-stripping, clearing eavestroughs, etc. – should be done during fall. During winter months, regulate your thermostat to conserve energy. Know the most optimal temperature that would be most comfortable for you and your family. This will help you stay warm without your hydro bills going through the roof.

    Did you know that winter is the worst time for fires in Canada? It’s the season when we do all our cooking and heating indoors. This is why it’s important to use only safe sources of heat within your home. If you intend to use your fireplace, read Fireplace safety from Fire Prevention Canada. Lastly, and most importantly, make sure that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly (replace the batteries if needed). Always have emergency numbers ready for any contingency.

    Manitobans are lucky that the City clears up snow on sidewalks and back lanes (this is not the case for other provinces). However, with the amount of snow we get, you will still need to shovel areas near your home to keep it passable and safe. Make sure to wear the right clothing and footwear for the job. Also, get the right length of shovel to prevent back and muscle strain (practice using it before buying at the hardware store). Shoveling is hard work, so don’t over extend yourself.

    Have a safe and fun winter!
    Article updated November 16, 2022.
    Sources: The “stay warm” winter guide for Canadian newcomers (Parts 1-5), Margaret Jetelina, Canadian Immigrant; 5 winter hacks to keep your car from freezing, CBC News and Winter safety, Fire Prevention Canada. Accessed January 13, 2020.

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