Cold Weather Tips from Yukoners for folks in the US

Happy Nonetheless-- by Amanda Graham
Happy Nonetheless– by Amanda Graham

A friend of mine in Kentucky asked for any tips I might know about dealing with cold weather since I lived in the Yukon for nine years. I told him I’d share what I could. Not definitive, and many other Yukoners have great strategies too. These are just my thoughts, presented humbly from my own experience. Not a cold weather expert at all–just someone who went though ten winters, down to -50C once and made a lot of mistakes and had a lot of advice and help.  Fellow Yukoners, feel free to add your advice in the comments. I know I missed important tips! And you are all awesome at cold weather living. Please add any advice for your Southern brothers and sisters.


Hey Graham. I’d be happy to share what I know. Personally I learned that cold is a game you play with the outside. Dress in layers. One cool sweater over a shirt won’t do. Better to have multilayers that will trap pockets of warm air. I suggest three. And a good down-filled coat (lots of pockets of warm air there). Gloves are important to always keep on. Hands can get really chapped and stiff very quickly. I learned that even a short walk to the car and back in -20C would chap my fingers quickly. I liked those black ninja masks with air holes that skiers sometimes wear. Allows you to cove half your face and still breathe.

Pace yourself. Don’t go so fast as to breathe hard. You don’t want -20C air in your lungs. Always breathe in your nose. Your mother was right. Your nose hairs will freeze at -20C and below. But it just feels prickly. There’s no damage. It’s actually a cool experience.

Cover as much as your face as you can–but a furry hood can set your face back far enough that it will help.

Take breaks in your shoveling. Warm up. Don’t run your cars if the temps falls below -30C. Unless you plug them in every night and a heater under your oil pan keeps your oil warm. Or you keep them in a garage. But still, Yukoners knew that operating most cars after -30C was extra wear and tear. We’d all take the bus or ski to work. Lol.

Hiking boots are fine with warm wool socks. OH long johns are priceless. I wore mine for the whole winter in the north. They make a huge difference. Polypropylene longjohns are awesome and thin by Terramar and other companies. Well worth the 30 bucks or so.

If I think of more ill let you know. I’m just planning on spending more time inside the house. If you dress warmly, in layers, you will be fine. And playing in the snow is great, but probably not below -20 unless you are used to it. And if there’s a strong wind, I’d advise hot cocoa and watching a movie.

* Just a note, many Yukoners did drive after -40C. Had to get to work. But most all would say it’s not good for your car. But Yukoners take pride in being able to function fully in cold weather. Nothing is closed because of cold weather–few events are ever canceled. I once got in trouble for canceling class when I taught at Yukon College when the temp was to drop to -50C. “We are the standard,” I was told. “If the Yukon closes things, it must be horrible.” And -50, though rare, wasnt horrible. Lol.

Good luck in the cold! It doesn’t have to stop your fun, but while the Yukon had roads cleared in an hour, because we were ready for it, and had extra crews, and because we had drivers used to winter driving with their winter tires, roads were safe for us. For everyone else, maybe think twice about going out. Your drivers aren’t used to winter driving, your road crews may be overwhelmed because your cities have more roads to clear. Your city will be doing the best it can. Stay in and watch Netflix while the world goes through the Ice Age until Wednesday. Good luck and enjoy experiencing a little bit of Yukon*.

Hope this helps.

*PS  The Yukon isn’t responsible for cold weather, even though the weather people keep saying that this “cold air mass” is brought to you by Canada, or the Arctic…. they aren’t made in the Yukon.  They ARE, however, first enjoyed in the Yukon.

Again: Fellow Yukoners, feel free to add your advice below. I know I missed important tips! And you are all awesome at cold weather living. Please add any advice for your Southern brothers and sisters. I titled this “Yukoners” for that reason.  Thanks!

10 thoughts on “Cold Weather Tips from Yukoners for folks in the US

  1. jstueart January 5, 2014 / 9:59

    Laura Hutchinson writes: I like merino wool for the next layer. Put a light covering of olive oil on your face, it keeps you just a bit warmer in the wind, protects from frost bite, and keeps your skin moist. Use antiperspirant on your feet to keep them dry in your boots and your feet will stay warmer longer. Be religious about getting your boots dry when you come in. Stay hydrated.

  2. jstueart January 5, 2014 / 9:59

    Jenny Hamilton writes: You get a wet cold. Yukon is a dry cold. Cotton as your first layer is important to wick away moisture. Stay safe out there folks. When it is all over come visit us up north…anytime of the year. You can handle it!

  3. Carole January 5, 2014 / 9:59

    Mittens are warmer than gloves, several layers are better than one bulky coat, and if you do need to drive at -40, be sure to start slowly to let your tires warm up. You’ll know they’ve warmed up when it no longer feels like your tires are square.

  4. jstueart January 7, 2014 / 9:59

    Susan Rae writes: I prefer warm mitts because my fingers stay warm. I have a choice of three depending on how cold it is. Make sure they don’t get wet or carry an extra pair. Merino wool is wonderful and light weight. My fleece lined jeans or cargo pants are what I wear in winter.

  5. jstueart January 7, 2014 / 9:59

    Jason Seguin writes: Hey kids, just a heads-up on merino vs cotton – merino wool wins every time. Cotton doesn’t sick moisture away that well. Merino even works better for all-day relief, when you’re on your feet all day it helps your feet feel better at the end of the day. Driving: just don’t. If you have fog/ice buildup inside your car just keep the fans on and open a back window an inch. It is caused by a buildup of moisture, usually from the snow you bring into the car on your boots, which is then evaporated by your full-blast foot heater.

  6. jstueart January 7, 2014 / 9:59

    Hank Moorlag writes: After many years in the high arctic, I learned that being cold is largely a state of mind. If you’re constantly preoccupied with how cold you are, you’ll be very uncomfortable indeed. If you get your off that and on to whatever activity you’re engaged in, you can actually forget about the cold and enjoy the outdoors, even at -40. The key is to keep mind and body active. Having said all that, there’s no substitute for proper winter clothing. A good toque is your best friend. Once I learned these truths, I could untangle dog team traces with bare hands at -40, or scoop loose ice out of a fishing hole. Try it out! Hank.

  7. jstueart January 7, 2014 / 9:59

    Nita Collins writes: Parka with fur or faux fur lined TUNNEL hood. With your toque on underneath it. Snow/ski pants over top of your fleece pants over top of your long johns. Felt pack boots (Sorrels). Good attitude.

  8. jstueart January 7, 2014 / 9:59

    Jenny Hamilton reminds us: A toque is Canadian for a ski cap or knitted hat. Jerome adds: we called them stocking caps.

  9. jstueart January 7, 2014 / 9:59

    Maureen Blaker Stephens writes: There’s a saying, “Cotton Kills”. Here’s a good article of great layering fabrics: Also, the colder it gets outside, the better the kitchen parties are inside. Wear a good hat, Toque-Hair for the win! Wool socks and wool felt liners in your boots keep your tootsies toasty.And yes, lol, the cold weather policy at Yukon College still is, “It’s cold out, get dressed, warm up or car, or take the bus: classes are on!”

  10. jstueart January 7, 2014 / 9:59

    Sharon Shorty writes: I like silk long johns cos they are thin and very warm (Eddie Bauer). I wear fur after -25C. Uggs are good too. Plan your trips and keep sleeping bag in car and candle for emergency.

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