7 Snow Survival Secrets from a Southerner-turned-Northerner

Dear Friends and Family in Snowklahoma,

I hear y’all down south. Some of you are calling it “snowmageddon” or “snowpocalypse.” That’s cute. It’s really a blizzard down there in Oklahoma — and elsewhere!

Having been an Oklahoman the first 22 years of my life, I sympathize with you. Really, I do. No matter where you live, temperatures below 10 degrees accompanied by 16 or more inches of snow in a short period of time are certainly cause for excitement. And that’s especially true when you just had a lovely 75 degree day earlier this week. Such a change in weather is quite shocking, no doubt.

So, as you sit trapped at home, sipping hot beverages, checking Facebook (again) and trying to decide whether to clean your closets or bake cookies, know that I am thinking of you.

And maybe you’re thinking about me, too? Maybe your crazy, record-breaking blizzard makes you wonder just how any native Oklahoman could possibly survive 5 minutes up here in the Frozen Tundra of Minnesota.

Well, somehow I have survived 13 Minnesota winters — practically every winter of my adult life! I’m still not sure how I have survived thus far, or if I will even survive this brutal, record-breaking winter we’ve been having here. But I do have a few secrets to share. These probably won’t help you in your current snowpocalypse conditions, but should you ever consider moving north, you will most certainly need to re-visit this list.

1. Get acquainted with a really good snow shovel. Even if you have a strong, energetic young husband who prefers to handle the job himself, he will most likely be on a business trip to Florida when the biggest snowfalls come, leaving you to regularly fend for yourself in the driveway. So, befriend your resident snow shovel and always keep track of its whereabouts. You will need to use it someday. Unless you live in a neighborhood that provides snow removal as part of your association dues. In which case, you will need a shovel anyway because the your neighborhood will inevitably be last on the snow removal guy’s route.

2. Stay on good terms with your neighbors and share some of your famous baked goods with them. Some of the really macho neighbor guys love to use their snowblowers and will occasionally compete to see who can get your driveway cleared first before you even notice it has snowed. If you can determine who to thank, it is appropriate to reward them with more baked goods.

3. Try to think kindly of snow plow drivers. Yes, their enormous orange plows create a deep ridge of chunky gray snow at the end of your driveway, which frustrates you and traps you at home even though you just spent a full hour shoveling snow in subzero weather. But really, they are only trying to clear the streets and highways so you can get to your destination easier. They are a priceless fleet of hard-working folks, and you simply cannot get to the grocery store without them.

4. Invest in a down parka with a hood. What I used to call a “coat” in Oklahoma is really only a lightweight jacket here in Minnesota.  For winter, you seriously need something substantial from The North Face, Patagonia or Columbia. But keep your jacket; you’ll need it frequently in late spring, early fall and maybe even on the 4th of July.

5. Learn to tie a scarf. As an Oklahoman, I always thought scarves were dorky and useless because we only wore them on the outside of the jacket collar. As a Minnesotan, I have learned that wearing a warm scarf tied snuggly around my neck increases my body temperature by about 42 degrees, and even more so if there’s a breeze. When not in use, my scarf stores nicely in the sleeve of my parka — except when it slips out unexpected and lands in a pile of melting snow on the mudroom floor, thereby sending me into the Anne-of-Green-Gables-like depths of despair and lowering my body temperature by 42 degrees. Perhaps owning two warm scarves is a good idea.

6. Don’t forget to accessorize appropriately. My how-did-I-ever-survive-without-this winter accessories include: my REI hat, Sorel snow boots, Cuddle Duds, Smart Wool socks, Thinsulate-lined leather gloves, and flannel sheets. Okay, maybe flannel sheets are not truly an accessory, but how did I ever survive without them?


7. Invest in snowpants, too. These are mandatory apparel for all Minnesota school children (they wear them during recess and on the bus because they almost never, ever, ever get a “snow day” off from school). Snowpants probably should be mandatory for adults, too. Most come with an elastic cuff that fits over your snow boots to ensure none of that powdery white stuff sneaks up against your skin. If you want to get any fresh air between November and April, wearing snowpants (along with the parka and accessories mentioned above) will keep you quite comfortable outdoors for at least 20 minutes, maybe longer if you’re actually able to move while wearing them. (Remember the little kid in A Christmas Story?) You can always add more layers and feel warm outside. Unless of course the wind is blowing. In which case you should just return the snowpants, parka and accessories mentioned above and use the money to buy a one-way ticket to anywhere in Mexico.

Stay warm!


Starlight Writer, a Southerner-turned-Northerner

4 thoughts on “7 Snow Survival Secrets from a Southerner-turned-Northerner

  1. Excellent advice, Diana. A few more topics to explore (based on my 20.5 MN winters and 4 in Chicago:
    8. Learn to walk
    9. Learn to fall
    10. Learn what to do when car is too cold to start (husband WILL be in Florida)
    11. Understand pipes- freezing, breaking, preventing both
    12. Driving, oh my…this should be an entry all of its own!

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