Winter in Potsdam, New York, is not like winter in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for better or for worse. I was prepared and excited for a temperature change when I jetted off to college this fall, but the negative temperatures weren’t the only new things I experienced. For my fellow Southerners, here are some of the highlights of winter in (practically) Canada.
1. The oppressive darkness.
You’ve read that Scandinavia is one of the most depressing places on Earth in the winter. In Northern NY, the sun shines for more than three hours a day, but when it sets at 3:30 PM, you still do a double take. Turning your clock back in October helps a little bit, but nothing can compare to the perpetually sunny South. By 5:00 PM, you’re ready to go to sleep, and when it’s time to go to class the next day, you can’t believe it’s morning.
2. The cold.
The one you expect and the one everyone north of the Mason Dixon line loves to taunt you about. “You don’t know cold,” they say, rolling their eyes as you grab a jacket to walk outside in 30-degree weather. Well, you don’t know the sweet embrace of death either, but that’s not exactly your fault. It’s okay--your boiling frustration with every person that says this to you will keep you toasty warm through the winter months.
3. The wind.
-20 degrees is a breeze as long as there is absolutely no other type of breeze present. The wind doesn’t care how insulated your coat is; unless you want to wear a ski mask every time you walk to class, you are going to suffer.
4. The killer sidewalks.
Snow is fun until it acquires a top coating of ice. Your typical five-minute walk to class stretches to fifteen minutes, solely because if you walk any faster than a tortoise, you will slip and fall and possibly injure yourself. Badly. And if you can’t stand up afterward, you’ll probably freeze to death on the ground, invisible to your classmates who are also fighting for their lives and late night pasta.
5. Everyone’s complete disinterest in snow.
When it snows in the South, people scream and highways shut down. When it snows up North, nothing changes. People glance outside, sigh, and chuck on some snow boots (or no boots, because that’s too much work, apparently), and walk to class. Occasionally they pelt each other with snowballs, but typically, everything’s the same--just more miserable.
6. The snow that sticks to the ground for more than two days.
You’re used to “snow days,” but you’re used to the snow melting shortly after it falls. Snow isn’t a freak incident up North, and neither are below freezing temperatures. Once the snow begins to fall, you’re stuck with it for at least a week (granted you’re lucky enough to hit a temperature above 32 degrees in February). It’s the winter wonderland you’ve always hoped for, but maybe not the one you expected.
7. The winter sports that everyone but you is good at.
Ski trips were luxuries in the South; up North, people hit up the mountains every weekend. While you attempt cruising down bunny slopes, your friends shoot down the highest peaks backwards. It’s not just skiing either--there’s ice skating, snowboarding, hockey, and even snowshoeing…? Everyone does them, and if you want to have fun in your new environment, you should probably learn to do them too, even if you fall on your face.
8. The heat.
It’s cold out and you’re wearing sweaters and boots and coats, but miraculously sweating when you step inside a building. Honestly, when you consider the extreme temperature shifts going in and out of buildings in a single day, winter in the North feels a lot like winter in the South: unpredictable, uncomfortable, and extremely frustrating. But hey, at least your state is blue.