Thriving in an Ottawa winter

Posted on Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Three girls and a guy bundled in warm clothes for the wintery cold.

Overdressing for cold weather may seem natural but it can be just as bad as underdressing.

By Linda Scales

Ottawa winters can be finger-numbing cold. Are you prepared? If you’re a newcomer to frosty Eastern Canada, the Gazette has compiled some tips to help you survive (and thrive in) the season.

Dress for the outdoors and according to your activity

Adding an extra sweater may seem like a reasonable solution when dressing for the cold, but too many heavy clothes may cause you to overheat. Sweat freezes and clings to your skin, but it’s important to stay dry. The solution is to dress in layers and according to your outdoor activity. For example, when tobogganing or tubing you might wear a base of long underwear, mid layers of thin sweaters and shirts, topped with a waterproof/windproof winter jacket and snow pants. You might forego the base layer and snow pants when walking to campus, but first consider the temperature, the wind chill and how long you’ll be outside.

Get into the habit of checking the forecast because sudden changes in the weather are common. Learn the signs of frostbite and hypothermia and what to do if you begin to experience either condition.

Choose winter-friendly fabrics such as wool, wool-blends and synthetic fibres like fleece that wick away moisture. Avoid cotton. And always choose waterproof boots designed for cold climates with treads to help prevent slipping. Add a hat or toque, scarf and gloves or mitts and you’ll be ready for winter. Using sunglasses and sunscreen is a good idea too.

Take care of yourself

Being outside in the cold requires the body to use more energy to keep warm, and winter is also the season when colds and the flu are more prevalent. Focus on getting good nutrition from your food choices and drinking plenty of water. Be careful about consuming too much alcohol – its warm glow is fleeting and may cause you to misjudge the cold.

Give yourself extra time to walk anywhere when snow and ice are underfoot to avoid falling and hurting yourself.

Don’t hibernate! Exercise – even daily walks outside – will help minimize the stress, fatigue and mental health problems that can arise because of the reduced sunlight.

Keep active

Canada’s culture is especially reflected in its winter activities. In Ottawa, there is Winterlude, skating on the Rideau Canal and sipping hot chocolate on the lawn of Parliament Hill during the annual launch of Christmas Lights Across Canada on December 7.

Many winter activities are also new for some Canadians, depending on whether they were raised in the city or country, on the Prairies or in Atlantic Canada, for example. There is dog sledding, ice fishing, skiing, snowshoeing or snowboarding, and making snow angels and building snow men (or women).

Don’t avoid winter, but learn to dress appropriately, stay healthy and have fun!

A woman and child sitting in a dog sled with a man standing on the runners, being pulled by a team of dogs.

The solution to staying warm outdoors in winter is dressing in layers and according to your activity. Photo credit: Jamie McCaffrey


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