McGill Recommendations, Student Life

Tips to survive the impending Montreal winter

With the temperatures steadily dropping and the leaves quickly disappearing, it’s time we accept the inevitable: Winter is coming. If it’s your first winter here, you’re in for quite the treat. If it isn’t, then great—I hope you remembered your jacket. 

After some 12 years of living in Montreal and experiencing these gruelling winters, I’ve grown accustomed to the bitter winds that slap me in the face on a brisk winter morning, the feeling of snow melting into my “waterproof” boots, and the sun setting before I’ve even had a chance to grab a second coffee. Not only is it the most brutal season of the year, but it’s also the longest. So, it’s important to know what to expect and how to deal with winter when it arrives. “Attache ta tuque,” as the Quebecois say. 

Punctuality is overrated; dressing appropriately is not

The key to preventing a “winter burn-out” is merely this: Staying warm. So let’s not beat around the bush—if you want to be fully functioning by the end of the season, first things first: Wear a coat! A winter one. I know it can be hard to make the distinction between what is considered a “fall coat” and a “winter coat,” so let me help you out. If your coat looks like one of those light, skinny ones middle-aged people buy when they’re having a midlife crisis, then that’s probably not what you should be wearing when it’s -15 degrees Celsius outside. Get yourself a proper coat—the thick, padded, warm, insulated-to-the-teeth kind that shields you from the cold.

Along with coats, hats, too, are a must. It’s one thing not to wear gloves and shove your fingers in your pockets, but there really is no equivalent for your head, nose, and ears—let’s stop pretending that pulling your hood over your head does the job. While you’re at it, maybe consider investing in a scarf or even a pair of earmuffs. The bottom line is: Don’t rush out the door in minimal winter clothing. Take time to bundle up—even if it might cost you a few extra minutes of your day.

Getting around town in the wintertime

To the students who plan on boycotting public transport, thinking they can walk instead… well…good luck. Walking is certainly doable when you live within a five-block radius of campus, but if you’re located anywhere beyond that, you might want to consider investing in an OPUS card. With over 215 bus lines and 68 metro stops across the island, the public transport network saves Montrealers a lot of trouble when it comes to getting around. And here’s a not-so-secret-secret for you: McGill students get access to an OPUS card with discounted student fares, which you can order through Minerva! 

Resisting the urge to hibernate

Let’s face it: Joining the squirrels in hibernation has never looked more appealing. Now, however tempting this may be, it’s essential to get outside and spend time with friends. The city has many outdoor activities to keep you occupied, which are often free and accessible. If you’re steady on your feet, there’s skating at parks such as La Fontaine and Maisonneuve—they offer skate rentals. Or perhaps if you’d rather hurtle 100 miles an hour down a hill—then maybe sledding is for you. If you need a break from your studies, you could enjoy a scenic walk up Mount Royal or attend events hosted by the city’s annual “Montréal en Lumière.”

Winters in Montreal are certainly not for the faint of heart, especially when they last until late April, but you will quickly get used to them. Just remember to wrap up and get outside when the sun’s out. Reserve the Netflix days for blizzards and freezing rain storms—did I mention those? Oh, right… anyway, don’t worry, you’ll survive. And before you know it, the warm weather will return, and you will be back on campus, in the sun, waiting in line for a hot dog again.

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