9 Rules For Surviving Minnesota Winters

No one’s kidding when we say Minnesota winter’s aren’t for the weak.

It’s not just the cold, though the entire month of January lingers at a few degrees above zero–that’s also just so MUCH of it. For instance, here’s a photo I snapped at my favorite beach May 6th, 2013:

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 8.03.42 PM

Most people would lament that there is no spring in sight–but you can see the ice thawing, so there’s something, but seriously, sometimes it feels like winter never ends here, so I’ve come up with some helpful rules to make it through until the waters are warm at Big Island once again.

1. Proper supplies

Get yourself one of these:

Snow brusher / Ice scraper
Snow brusher / Ice scraper

And one of these:

car shovel
car shovel

It snows here. A lot. You will have to scrape ice off your car every morning if you don’t have a garage. Sometimes you will have to dig your car out of a snow pile. See example:

Michael Dolan
Michael Dolan

Tip: in a pinch you can scrape ice off your windows with a non-important card (like a library card or a rewards card-NOT one you can’t live without for a few days if you accidentally break it) and an empty fast food beverage cup can shovel up snow near your tires. Also, it’s Minnesota, so if all else fails approach someone digging out their own car who has adequate supplies and ask for help. It will make their day.

2. Learn how to drive in snow and ice

This is definitely an acquired skill. When your car is slipping on ice even the slowest, safest driver can lose control, but practice in these conditions helps a lot.

One imperative is to drive on snow tires, or at least tires that are not nearing bald. Check them at the beginning of the season. I’ve been driving up a SMALL (but icy) hill and slowed to a stop… before sliding backwards down because my tires couldn’t get any traction on the road. The same goes for snow, you want to spend as little time as possible digging yourself out– to this end it helps a lot of your tires can do some of the work.

The second most obvious (but admittedly hard to follow) tip is to make sure you can actually see before you drive. Yes, it sucks to sit in a below zero car waiting for the windows to defrost, but make sure you can clearly see everything before getting on the road. My favorite tip to make this easier is to heat a corn bag in the microwave while I’m getting ready and hold it in my car while I’m waiting for it to warm up/defrost in the morning. For this, I recommend the Origins Ginger Hug:

Origins Feel Good Hug
Origins Feel Good Hug

Finally, if you do start to fishtail or slip on an icy road, don’t freak out. Don’t keep trying to correct your cars steering–it won’t work. You should be keeping extra distance between you and other cars during this season. Whenever your tires do get a grip, they will move your vehicle in whichever direction they are faced, so overcorrecting the steering can run you off the road–or into traffic.

3. Invest in the ice melting washer fluid

photographer name

On mornings when you are sick and tired of scraping, it can restore your sanity.

4. Sign up for automated snow emergency alerts

The city of Minneapolis is awesome in providing alerts you can get sent to your phone or email address, or follow on Twitter. If you don’t have the protocol memorized, you can go to their website and it tells you exactly what’s allowed and what’s off limits. You can even input your exact address in the app and it shows you a map of where you can park. No one wants a ticket and a trip to the impound lot because they didn’t make room for the snow plows. Figure out what your city’s rules are and get automatic notifications of when you’d have to move your car if possible.

5. Learn how to get salt stains out of your clothing

Nothing is worse than finding and investing in the perfect pair of jeans or winter shoes and having them covered in salt stains after the first wear. For the unfamiliar, people spread salt literally EVERYWHERE in snowy states during the winter because salt melts the ice and makes everything less slippery. Which is great, except for the fact that it inevitably ends up on your clothing.

6. Eat hearty meals

John Lambert Pearson
John Lambert Pearson

Minnesota winters are no place for a diet. You need hearty meals. A nice hot dish will help you make it through.

7. Make your home cozy

You need a warm, happy thought to think about when you are trudging through the snow on your way home. Keep your slippers by the doors so you can slide into them and out of your wet shoes. Use your fireplace if you have one. Get a down comforter. Also, if you haven’t already discovered wool socks, now is the time to investigate– paired with a long t-shirt or flannel, this is the perfect not too-hot not too-cold cozy bedtime attire

Wool hunting socks
Wool hunting socks

8. Have extra food

It might be hard to believe but every few years there IS a blizzard that’s bad enough that you won’t want to risk driving to the store. If you’re able to stay snuggled inside-do that! My first adult blizzard was a few years ago and stupidly my roommate and I were overdue for a trip to the grocery store. Our friends from a few blocks away made the trek and we cooked all the remaining food left in our apartment that night and ended up with like, venison pineapple nachos. It’s never a bad idea to know you’re able to comfortably able to ride out a storm with friends.

9. Have fun


The winter will seem endless if you don’t insert some fun in there. I make a rule with myself that I try to be enchanted by snow and winter until January 1. It doesn’t get very cold until then and snow is still a novelty, especially around the holidays. Only after this milestone am I allowed to get a bad attitude.

At this point, the winter crabbies can be mitigated by enjoying winter only activities like skiing, snowmobiling and ice-fishing. Ice fishing seems like a bros only activity, but it’s actually super fun because (spoiler alert) ice fishing is actually sitting around in a tiny cabin drinking, playing games, and waiting for fish to bite. Same with skiing, you don’t have to be particularly good at it. You can do a few runs on the bunny hill and then sit in the chalet enjoying the fire and a nice Bailey’s and hot chocolate.

For urban people, ice skating is a fun and beautiful winter activity. Try the candle light skating on Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis or Centennial Lakes in Edina (there’s a big fireplace in the warming house!). There’s also skating at The Depot downtown, which is really, really fun and a great night because you can pair it with a fun restaurant

Whatever winter activity is right for you (maybe it’s just making an annual snowman) just make sure you do something you enjoy, it will make the wait for summer that much more enjoyable. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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Chrissy Stockton

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