Whenever I mentioned to anyone that we were relocating to Edmonton, Canada, the first comment invariably made was along the lines of, ‘you do realise they have snow there for 6 months of the year?’ This was then often followed by ‘and it’s extremely cold – minus 40 in the Winter’.
Both points are absolutely true, and yes, the snow has indeed arrived along with the sub-zero temperatures. In the last 2 weeks, we’ve gone from being in the positive mid to late teens, through to minus mid to late teens – and a windchill that has seen it -24 on a few occasions. That said, it’s hard to describe what this is like unless you experience it – it’s like nothing I’ve known before. It’s wonderful, yet cold – although I’m conscious that it’s still a novelty at this point!
The skies are often blue – pure blue, with not a single cloud in them, and the sun shining. On the occasional day, there’s cloud cover – usually when it’s due to snow, but more often than not (so far at least), it’s been clear blue skies. The temperatures are so low that there isn’t any rain anymore, just snow. And now the temperatures have dropped and the first snow has fallen, it stays where it is and gradually compacts down on the surfaces as ice on the pavements and roads. I’m used to seeing snow turn quickly into a mucky brown slush in the UK, but this never happens either here. It stays crystal white – even after footprints and boots have trodden in it.
The air is so dry and cold, that you get ice particles in the air which shimmer and glisten in the light – it’s truly beautiful. The trees stay covered in snow and ice crystals – and are mesmerising to look at and reminiscent of all the picture postcard scenes seen on Christmas cards in the Winter.
And talking of Winter – this hasn’t arrived yet. It’s Autumn here – and Winter is still to come. Everyone talks about February being the coldest month – and with the temperatures already plummeting, we’ve procured all manner of clothing and apparel that keeps us snug whilst outside. Lots of layers is key, and anything left exposed feels the cold pretty quickly.
Driving has also taken some getting used to. Luckily, our new Jeep arrived the day before the snow so it’s been both fortuitous, but also a steep learning curve for someone (me!) who’s not been used to driving much in the snow and ice. I’ve progressed though. On Day 1 – I accept – I was as slow as a snail. Driving with trepidation in the snow and on the ice, much to the disgruntlement of the locals who were extremely polite and patient – no honking of horns or gesticulating gestures which I would expect to find back in England. It’s been a baptism of fire as I’ve had to drive and navigate myself around in order to deposit kids off to various locations and obtain food and necessaries for the house. My confidence has grown and now – 2 weeks on – I’m driving on the sheet ice (which has become the new tarmac) with greater confidence and assurance. There have been no minor mishaps, traffic accidents or vehicle breakdowns – key KPI’s from my perspective and a success story, I’m sure you’ll agree!
It’s also interesting to see that life continues and nothing stops for the sake of sub-zero temperatures or a foot of snow. Nothing can afford to – not when it lasts for 6 months of the year. Traffic flows easily, there maybe the occasional bump on the roads (usually as the extra stopping distances required haven’t been factored in), but no great inconvenience. Gritters grit the roads and life continues as before.
Even the school has a policy that above -20, the kids will continue to play out at ‘recess’. Below this (including windchill), the kids stay indoors. But they need to be hardy, and make sure they always wear hats, gloves, thick coats, and waterproof boots. It’s one of those learning points in life that you’ll only ever forget one of these items once – and you never do it again, as it’s so cold.
Walking to school in a morning, the school has a traffic light system displayed on the doors depending on the weather and temperature. Below -20, it’s a ‘red’ system and the kids can access the school and wait in the gym until school officially opens. Above -20, it’s a ‘green’ system, and they have to wait outside until the school doors are open.
You quickly acclimatise to the temperature though. It’s warm today. At only -8, I’ve put a thinner coat on and haven’t needed a hat. Like life – everything’s relative.
Winter when it hits will be interesting …