When I arrived in Craftsbury Common to begin the Fall Semester, it was 72ºF. I had just come from the warmth of the tropics and so this seemed fairly cold to me. I knew that it got really cold in these parts but I don’t think anything could’ve prepared me for just how cold it could get. It’s now four months since that “cold” August day and I can safely say that my perception of cold/warm has changed drastically. Initially, I wasn’t sure how I’d survive the blistering winter weather, but I can say with certainty that I’ve managed to do it pretty well, and dare I say, enjoy it too. Trust me, this was no easy feat; but through trial, error and with the advice of true Vermonters, I’ve thrived. So from me, a young woman who has lived her entire life in temperatures that never dropped below 75ºF, to you, here are a few tips for making the most of the winter months. In no particular order.
1. Layering is A Major Key
Without exaggeration, layering properly has saved my life. I learnt the art of layering from one of our lovely faculty members here at Sterling. Anne took the time to come talk to us about the do’s and don’ts and she really blew my mind. Who knew cotton was a no-go in the Northeast? I surely didn’t. The trick with layering, though, is you can always take things off. You never want to be caught out in the cold with too few layers.
At Sterling, they are a near and dear friend. The winter also brings with it gloomy days. A healthy dose of Vitamins C and D have kept me without a cold and improved my mood, significantly. Because I am from a place that has sunshine 365 days a year, it is very hard to not see the sun for days on end, and so getting vitamin D is a necessity.
3. Get Outside
I know this seems counterproductive and I know you are wondering why this would even be a suggestion, but bear with me. Being cooped up indoors all of the time is one of the worst things you can do during the winter here. Don’t get me wrong, you will not catch me outside in sub-zero temperatures unless absolutely necessary, but anything above that is fair game. There are so many activities that you can participate in, such as skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and my personal favorite, sledding. The simplest thing, though, is simply taking a walk. Appropriately bundled up, of course.
4. A Good Pair of Winter/Snow Shoes
These will probably cost an arm and a leg but they are worth the investment. Not only do you need to be concerned about the cold and your feet freezing, but slipping and falling is a very real threat. Some will argue that the shoes have nothing to do with it, and to some extent I do agree, but the chances of you falling are reduced with them.
5. Gloves, Wool Socks, Balaclavas
I have found that if my fingers and toes are cold then the rest of my body automatically follows suit. Cold extremities are not fun and are super uncomfortable. Which is why investing in quality gloves, socks, and a good balaclava is a must. On extremely cold days I will wear ski gloves but on regularly cold days, a normal wool gloves will do just fine. It is the same with socks, one pair works for regular cold days and two pairs are for sub-zero temperatures. Balaclavas are a special treat. There are days when it is so windy that it feels as if you are in a battle with the wind, and obviously the wind is winning. Your balaclava will keep your face and neck from looking and feeling as if you lost the battle.
6. Hot Beverages
Preferably hot chocolate. As cliché as this is, I honestly think that it cannot be underscored enough. It really warms you up on a cold day. Even the thought of having that hot chocolate makes you feel tingly on the inside. It is almost as if the anticipation warms you up.
7. A Warm Room/House
You absolutely do not want to go from the freezing outdoors to freezing indoors. My policy is that your house/room should be a sanctuary of sorts, where your body isn’t having to work overtime to warm you up. You want to be comfortable, happy and warm at home. You will be sharing a space with people who have different tolerance levels, so even if your dorm is a bit cold your room should be toasty.
8. Be Practical
Every so often, I’ve had the urge to try to dress cute during the winter. The thing about Vermont’s winter is that it is more beneficial to be practical rather than cute. For instance, you might want to wear a cute pair of jeans one day, but the cold air gets through jeans, no matter how many pairs of long underwear you have on. The better option? A pair of snow pants that are less cute, very bulky but more practical because they are so warm. Also, you cannot be knee deep in snow wearing jeans. You will be doing yourself no favors.
9. Hydrate and Moisturize
It is so easy to forget to drink water and lotion your skin when the air is cold. I get it, I really do. However, it is just as important to hydrate and moisturize during winter as it is in all the other seasons. Dehydration is less noticeable in colder months and the last thing you need is to cause harm to your health. The air is usually so dry that it sucks all of the moisture from your skin. Personally, I cannot risk not putting lotion on even though I am always covered in at least 3 layers at any given time. You do not want your skin drying out to the point of cracking and itching. This is a thing that actually happens.
10. Laugh and Have Fun
Craftsbury Common is an extremely beautiful place year round, but it is special during the winter months. Appreciating and embracing the cold and snow is such a wonderful part of the experience, for me. There are days when I look at the weather app and start laughing because surely the number must be a joke. How do you even function in -20ºF? Then you go outside and your eyelashes freeze and you laugh again because you finally feel like you belong. Make no mistake, it is cold. Vermont is cold. Craftsbury Common is cold. But it surely is a wonder to behold.
Written by Nakasi Fortune