Winter hacks every Manitoban should know

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You’ve got the basics down pat. Winter coat, check. Boots, gloves, scarf – check, check and check! You have also been told to beware of black ice, as well as yellow ice, and not to lick posts. Here are a few other tips that go beyond the basics to help keep you and your family comfortable and safe in winter.

Staying warm and healthy

  1. Embrace winter! – The best way to keep yourself warm is to have the right mindset. If you start the season feeling anxious and listening to every complainer you meet, you’ll notice only the negative things around you. So stay positive! Winter with all its quirks can be a fun time. Everything looks fresh and uniquely beautiful this time of year.
    A great way to embrace the season is to get into winter activities. Learn how to skate, ski or toboggan (check the Leisure Guide). Experience a winter festival in Manitoba. Let the kids play in the snow (but read this first: Your guide to dressing your kids for winter). Better yet, join them and make a snowman or a snowball fort. These make for great family memories you can cherish for many years to come. They help you better acclimatize to cold weather too.
  2. Stay covered – Skin starts freezing at -27C, so it is important to keep your body covered, especially your fingers, toes, and ears (these are the first to get frostbitten). If you’re like me and keep losing your gloves, scarves, or toques, carry a small tote bag to put them in. If you don’t want to carry a small bag around, have spare gloves/mittens and scarves in your regular bag or leave them in the office. Pack extra socks as well in case you need to replace them when they get wet. Mittens are preferable to gloves because they keep your hands warmer (you can keep your fingers together and trap body heat better). When the temp gets really low, good thermal underwear and ski pants are your best bets, especially if you will be outside in the cold for an extended period. If you are usually indoors, layering your clothes is the best practice. If your office heater is on high, you can easily take off some of your layers so you don’t sweat.
  3. Moisturize – Winter is the season for chapped lips and dry skin. Apply lotion immediately after a shower (while your skin is still slightly wet) to keep the moisture in. Pay special attention to your elbows, feet, heels, and knees. Have a tube of petroleum jelly or lip balm handy and apply to protect your lips from windburn (this goes for guys too).
  4. Sunblock and shades in winter – Yes, you read that right. Manitoba stays sunny even in winter so you’ll need sunblock protection all year round. Sunglasses are especially important when you are driving. The afternoon sun can be intense so you’ll need eye protection to be safe.
  5. Take some vitamins – Ask your doctor about Vitamin D and B supplements. If you are feeling down, getting sunlight and Vitamin D can help you get over winter blues, while Vitamin B boosts your immune system.

Energy-saving and home care tips

Keeping your home warm and safe will be your priority in winter. These tips will help you do this without adding to your hydro bills.

  1. Caulk or weatherstrip your windows and doors – Check windows and doors if there are spaces that let warm air escape. Caulking or weatherstripping are inexpensive ways to conserve the warm air in your home and help lower heating bills.
  2. Block drafts under doors – Check to see if there are spaces underneath doors. You can cut a foam pipe insulator to close the gap and help keep your rooms warm.
  3. Close unused rooms – To keep heat in one area, close the door of any unused rooms in the house.
  4. Shovelling – Shovelling is hard work! Warm-up before you take on the task. Pace yourself as you work and watch out for back strain. If it’s just light snow, it’s better to use a broom.
  5. Non-stick shovel –Spray non-stick cooking spray or silicone-based lubricant to prevent snow from sticking to your shovel. This will make the job easier for you.
  6. Open curtains when the sun is out – To save on hydro, keep your curtains open during the day when the sun is out. This will let the warmth in until the late afternoon.
  7. Clean up – Change your filters regularly to increase the efficiency and life of your furnace.
  8. Thaw out locks – Opening doors can be a challenge when you come home in the afternoon or at night as locks can be frozen. To solve this problem, use a lighter to heat up your key before putting it into the lock.
  9. Fire safety in winter? – Yes, winter is a busy season for fires in Canada. Unattended fireplaces or burning candles can lead to a fire. This is why it’s important to check your smoke alarms regularly and have an emergency plan in place (read Fire safety tips for newcomers for more information).

Car care and driving

  1. Park facing east – As much as possible, park facing east. The sun will help thaw out some of the snow on your vehicle.
  2. Pack a car mat – Always pack an extra car mat for emergencies. You may need to lay it down under your tires for traction if you get stuck in snow (some use kitty litter for the same purpose).
  3. Forgot your brush? Use an old credit card (or any used plastic card) to scrape ice from your windshield.
  4. Keep newspapers in the car – Protect your carpet from wet or muddy footwear by laying down some newspapers.
  5. Keep an emergency kit – Aside from a first-aid kit, it would be good to pack a thick blanket, extra parka and mitts in your car. This will ensure that you and your family will stay warm in case of an emergency or help out someone out in need.
  6. Drive safe – Get some great driving tips from the article Top 3 winter driving tips.

Have a safe and fun winter!
Article updated October 20, 2023.
Sources: 6 tips for staying safe and healthy during cold Canadian winters, Inside Toronto; 56 life hacks to help you win at winter, Sarah Winfrey, Wise Bread; Winter life hacks to help you get through Canada’s extreme cold, Rebecca Zamon, Huffington Post Canada.

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