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Calgary’s declassified polar vortex survival guide

By Megan Wilson, January 25 2022—

Saying that Calgary is a cold place to live is an understatement equivalent to comments like “I spend quite a bit of time on TikTok when I should be studying,” and “online learning presents unique challenges.” It is never a question of whether or not Calgary’s climate is cold but what you can do to survive it.

Fear not dear reader, here is a polar vortex survival guide that includes actual things you  —yes, you! —  can do to keep warm without having to sell your left kidney to buy a Canada Goose jacket. 

  1. Keep a pair of mitts, a toque and actual winter boots in your car at all times: 

You know what I’m talking about here. Not the skimpy little knit gloves you find on sale at the grocery store in September or your black leather boots that look cute with jeans. I’m referring to the winter gear straight from the Michelin man reject wardrobe.

Having heavy-duty winter clothing in your car on the off-chance something goes wrong like your car not starting or hitting the ditch means you don’t have to sacrifice your fashion sense but you can stay safe in a worst-case scenario.

For affordable options on quality winter gear, consider checking out Mountain Warehouse. They have an online store or you can check them out in person at Southcentre Mall. As well, REI has a whole section of their website offering up to 50 per cent off on just-reduced gear. And when in doubt, there’s always the old faithful of perusing Facebook Marketplace for gently used items.

  1. Find a stress relief hobby: 

Before you say it, no, Netflix does not count as a hobby. I’m about to sound like your grandma for a second but it is super valuable to find a hobby that doesn’t involve being on a screen, especially with the rest of the semester likely being online.

Taking the time to find an activity you enjoy, even if it’s something as small as bullet journaling, baking or yoga in your living room, can take the edge off the fact the air outside hurts your face and the sun begins to set at 4 p.m. Consider getting a friend or two to join you — it’ll give you something to talk about other than how much you hate Zoom and the cold weather. 

  1. Redecorate your ‘work-from-home’ space: 

If you’re going to be stuck inside all day, you might as well make sure your workspace is pleasing to look at. Working from your bedroom with blank walls feels less like working from home or online school and more like solitary confinement.

With that in mind, see if you can find a few things to jazz up your desk. A little trip down to HomeSense or Value Village to get a fake plant and some fairy lights is truly a mood booster when all you see from your window is the ominous white of 30 degrees below weather. Plus, the added bonus is that it’s a great excuse to get out of your house for an afternoon. 

  1. Participate in a Take a Coat, Leave a Coat programs:

If you’re fortunate enough to have an extra winter coat in the back of your closet, consider donating it this winter. Likewise, if you’re concerned about not having a winter jacket this year, there are several affordable options around the city.

Thrift stores such as Trend Fashions in Kensington often run “Take a Coat, Leave a Coat” programs to provide options for folks in need to stay warm. You can also consider donating gently used coats, hats, scarves and mitts to Project Warmth — a local charity committed to ensuring all Calgarians have access to proper winter weather clothing.

  1. Go outside when you can: 

I know, this one sucks. If I’m very honest, I don’t enjoy being outside when it’s any colder than -12 degrees Celsius , let alone when it physically hurts to breathe after less than 30 seconds of stepping out your front door. But, if you have the right winter equipment, taking a 10 minute walk around the block can make a difference in your mood.

On days when you’re not worried about your boogers freezing, consider taking up a winter hobby, like skating or skiing. As a University of Calgary student, you get a 10 per cent discount off of equipment rentals through the university’s Outdoor Centre.

If you don’t want to head to campus, you can go directly to the Outdoor Centre’s Bowness Park Skate Shop and snag yourself a decently-priced pair of skates for an afternoon of fun out on the ice. And since winter in Calgary effectively runs until mid-May, finding activities that make the great outdoors bearable is one of the best ways to survive the long and dark days ahead. 

Stay warm out there Dinos and remember, we’ll be rafting down the Bow River again and enjoying the perks of patio season before you know it.

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