Tuesday, February 5, 2013

101 days of snow....

I have been around a bit. When I was in the army, I spent a lot of time in the winter in Austria, snowboarding, skiing and ski bobbing. Winter can be a lot of fun - especially in European ski resorts with their sociable culture and warmish temperatures. I remember ski-bobbing in just a thin fleece and a pair of jeans in temperatures of about 4 or 5 degrees, but with bright warming sunshine.
When I went snowboarding in Austria in 2008 for 5 weeks, there were many days when we rode to the top of the mountain with our ski jackets and gloves on - only to take them off and leave them at the bottom after one run down. They stayed there all day as we boarded in short sleeved t-shirts and thin body armour underneath.
Ski bobbing sometime about 1995


This winter has been a little different though as you may already know from some previous posts.

It has been 101 days no since I returned from my Florida trip and saw my first real Canadian snowfall of what has been a long cold winter. The snow started slowly way back in October. The first fall stuck for a day or two and had almost disappeared when the second and thicker snow fell a couple of days later. This fall laid a thick blanket of snow on the roads and paths, which is yet to melt away. That's something I have had to get used to - In England, the snow falls on a cold couple of days, but normally within 72 hours, the temperature rises and the snow turns to a thick cold slush which chills your toes and ruins you carpets - but over here it is so so different. The snow falls and stays. It doesn't melt - the temperatures are too cold for that. Even the snow that is thrown aside from snow ploughs and cars just piles up on the side of the road, covering pavements and grass verges. In a few days this pile of snow starts to change. It solidifies as the temperatures drop and more snow falls onto it. More piles of the stuff form as again, it is thrown from the road and suddenly  - there it is - a huge boulder field beside every major road - consisting of huge ice blocks that could have fallen from some passing ice meteor - but actually formed before your eyes - even though nobody noticed.
The river started to freeze in November

A small spattering of snow

These boulders are everywhere and make crossing the road very difficult sometimes. For example if you come out of my front door and walk onto the road you have to climb a four foot high ice boulder field to reach the pavement on the other side.

In car parks you get an even larger pile of snow - The ploughs for the shopping areas push all the snow into piles 15 foot high that litter the car parks everywhere you look. Then when winter ends they disappear as they melt leaving a pile of rubble, stones and sand that has been trapped inside.

The boulder field next to the roads..

Walking on the pavement can be impossible

The river nearly frozen in January

The weather isn't that bad though. It sounds drastic when you see temperatures of minus 47 on the local weather channel - but as has been described many times earlier - it is a dry coldness which chills your bones, but doesn't soak you with a chill .If you wear a couple of layers and don't have exposed skin, then there isn't a major issue. On the other hand, if you don't wear a pair of gloves or something to cover your nose and cheeks then you WILL get frostbite in under 15 minutes. Many people have already done so this year - mainly young people on nights out!

I have actually enjoyed the experience though. Icicles on my eyelashes was a personal high for my winter - along with skating on the frozen river and playing boot hockey on Christmas day in minus 25.

Awesome frozen eyelashes

The completely frozen river!

Lovely weather  - but chilly.

As long as you keep covered and don't stand still too long its OK - until the wind turns its direction and comes down from the North - those are the worst days - if you are covered up its bearable, but anyone without a hat, 4 layers and a good air of shoes is going to be in trouble.

Anyway, that's it for now - the snow is still falling and Winter has a way to go yet. It has warmed up though - this week its averaging about minus 22 outside, which is really quite pleasant in the sunshine. So, if you are sat back in your house in England, wishing that the weather would warm up - have a little think about how you would cope out here in Canada - This is Winnipeg  - the worlds second coldest city!!

In a few weeks it will start to get a lot warmer and by the start of April, when I will have been out here for a year - we expect the first real signs of spring - for me it will be nice to see some green grass again!!


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