A Crash Course in Canadian Winter

Julia Ventura 

Semester 2 Exchange to Canada

Luckily for me I spent a lot of the first part of the fall semester with sunny weather from the end of summer. Although I didn’t appreciate for these benefits at the time it made travel, grocery shopping and getting ready in the morning pretty straightforward. During semester the weather gradually got colder which meant adding a beanie, scarf and thicker socks before I left the house. The beginning of finals marked the first snow of winter and seeing snow falling for the first time was amazing! The temperature at Brock (near Toronto) began to average -2C. For an Australian this is absolutely freezing! While my time at Brock introduced me to snow and consistent temperatures (a new experience in itself for a Melbourne student) in the negatives it did not prepare for my first snowstorm.


Visiting Quebec City after finals was one of my motivations while writing a seemingly endless stream of essays. I was so excited to finally visit French Canada! However, two days before I left they had a snowstorm. I didn’t really know what this entailed aside from a lot of snow but I went ahead with my trip anyway. Landing in Quebec I was greeted with snow falling and covering everything.


It was -16C and I literally couldn’t walk outside without gloves on because my hands would physically hurt. The snow was flying at my face horizontally which was probably the hardest part but everything did look very Christmassy capped in snow. During this trip especially I had to quickly work out the most important things about surviving a snowy winter.


Below is a list of the best advice I can give for surviving Canadian winter:

  • Have a good winter jacket that’s insulated and water resistant with a hood. This doesn’t have to be the best on the market, such as Canada Goose, which can cost in the thousands but it should be sturdy and be tested to handle very cold temperatures (~20). I got mine from the Canadian brand Point Zero, it was a lower cost option that had all the important features I wanted.
  • Ultimately having a good jacket is important but it is equally important to layer up underneath. When in Quebec with temperatures maxing -12 and reaching as cold as -26 (accounting for the wind) I would wear a thermal layer (leggings and a skin tight long sleeve top), jeans, a thick woolen jumper, thick socks, my winter coat, a scarf, beanie and gloves.
  • All the bits and pieces. By this I mean be sure that you have a scarf, gloves and a beanie. A good trick is to wrap your scarf around you’re the bottom half of your face and tuck it into your jacket when it’s especially cold and windy.
  • A good pair of snow boots. These will be somewhat of an investment (mine cost ~$120) but I think they are well worth it. Walking through the snow was so much easier with sturdy boots that kept my feet warm. It meant I didn’t have to worry about snow getting in my shoes and although it was still slippery sometimes it was a lot better than it would have been in normal shoes.


That pretty much rounds out my list. Living in the snow takes a bit of extra effort (it’s a lot of layers to keep check of especially while travelling) but I don’t think I could get sick of waking up and seeing fresh snow falling. It really does make Christmas time magical and it also makes your next hot meal taste extra good!