The key to surviving a Saskatchewan winter is knowing what to wear.
“I tell you, I almost died,” said Jean-Marie Nsabiyumva, who moved to Regina from Burundi, reflecting on his first winter in Saskatchewan. “It was so different.”
Adapting to the cold prairie climate comes with a steep learning curve. Newcomers often ask Saskatchewanians how they survive the long, cold winter months.
The right equipment can make all the difference.
Aisha Adelah was faced with three questions when she arrived in Saskatoon from Ghana to study as an international student: “What do I wear?” Where will I find what I will wear? Can I afford it?
Adelah asked these questions on CBC's new podcast, Good Question, Saskatchewan because she took a job at an outdoor rink.
The job description said to prepare for bad weather.
“I had to go look up what severe weather was because where I'm from we don't really have extreme weather,” she said. “So I looked at it and I was like, 'My God, do I know what I signed up for?'”
12:08 p.m.What should I wear to survive a Saskatchewan winter?
It is not uncommon for temperatures in Saskatchewan to drop to 40°C in winter. Wind chill can make the temperature even colder.
Adelah Googled the definition of wind chill, the feeling of cold on a person's skin, and realized extra layers would be necessary.
“Accessories are really important. Like the scarf, the hat, the gloves, are very, very important,” Adelah said.
Supporting newcomers in winter has become a passion for Nancy Broten, owner of Life Outside Gear Exchange in Saskatoon, and Lara Guererro, who works outdoors with the Meewasin Valley Authority.
The two created a presentation for international graduate students with instructions on how to layer properly for a cold winter day.
“We were able to show some of these important things about the moisture-wicking base and mid layers and then your shells,” Broten said. “It’s a learning curve.”
Guerror and Broten suggest a down jacket, ski pants and a toque.
“A down jacket at 35°C will simply make your life happy,” Broten said.
Both spent many hours outside being active with their own children.
“If you're a newcomer and the winters are really harsh, don't underestimate the power of getting outside for even 10, 15 or 20 minutes,” Broten said.
Guerrero and Broten have learned a few things over the years.
Make sure your kids' boot liners are removable so they can be removed to dry more quickly before going outside again, Broten said.
A down jacket at 35°C will simply make your life happy.-Nancy Broten
Other tips include using mittens that work better than gloves when you have to walk 10 or 15 minutes and buying insulated boots.
“These little things can make you feel more comfortable and at home, and that’s what we want people to experience,” Broten said.
She also recommends wearing ski goggles on colder days and always keeping a neck gaiter in your pocket so you or your children aren't left unprotected.
“There's an expression in German: There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes,” Guererro said, adding that merino wool socks changed his life.
The challenge Adelah and other newcomers face is the high cost of preparing for winter in Saskatchewan.
She is grateful that the university was able to offer students a selection of used winter items.
“I didn't have to use a lot of my own funds to buy clothes. So that's what really, really helped me,” Adelah said.
Adelah was now able to work outside and learn a new skill: skating.
“I'm not that fast, but it's definitely progress. It's my first year in Saskatoon and I've learned a lot.”
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