Winter in Manitoba

January 12, 2014
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Winter in Manitoba

Part beauty, part survival test

In conversations with others in our Arizona 55+ plus community this December and January, the weather has been a frequent topic. Not our weather, but the weather in Canada and almost any state north of here.

Many in the community are winter visitors. They hear from family and friends back home about the bitter cold. Newspaper and television news tell us of record-breaking cold temperatures, ice storms causing severe power outages, and the polar vortex causing havoc in the midwest. In my home province of Manitoba, Canada, the temperature on New Year’s Eve was the coldest on record since the 1800s.

When I and fellow Manitobans talk about our experiences with winter, many cannot fathom the experience. This includes people wintering here from other states, states whose winter is colder than Arizona’s but not as severe as Manitoba’s, as well as year-round Arizona residents.

Manitoba New Year’s Eve parties are associated with frigid weather in my mind. I can’t recall a mild New Year’s Eve. I think of donning a thick parka, scarf, and toque over a fancy party dress, hoping my Sorrel boots don’t snag my stockings, my earrings don’t get caught in my toque, and I will be able to make my hair look presentable when I take the toque off. I think of men leaving the party hall frequently throughout the night to run vehicles, so they don’t freeze and will still start at the end of the evening. New Year’s Day may see line-ups at gas stations as people replenish the gas they used keeping their engines warm the night before.

winter dog path

Winter making outdoor trips difficult for the dogs

People who haven’t experienced temperatures and windchills below minus 40 find it impossible to comprehend. They marvel at how people manage to live and get around in those conditions. I must admit I sometimes wonder how (and why) we did it too. Although when temperatures get that cold, outside of necessary treks to workplaces and grocery stores, people tend to cocoon inside their heated homes.

jigsaw puzzle

A good winter activity

But when the temperature warms to a balmy ten or twenty degrees below zero Celsius (fourteen or minus four Fahrenheit), there are pleasures to be found. Freshly fallen snow can be beautiful, especially as it glistens in the sunlight. (Until you have to shovel it.) Manitoba winters are full of sunshine, at least for part of the day, from about 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. (General rule of thumb: the clearer and sunnier, the colder.) And when conditions combine to create hoarfrost on the barren trees, the land seems like a fairy tale.



outdoor hockey

Neighbours playing hockey on the retention pond behind our houses

People do go out in the winter. They snowshoe, skate, and cross-country ski. They may play hockey. There are runners who run outside all year round. I once knew someone who thrived on winter camping. Winter festivals, such as Festival du Voyageur, the annual 10 day February event celebrating Franco-Manitoban joie de vivre, gets people out in a festive atmosphere.


Kitchen Party snow sculpture

Snow sculpture celebrating Festival du Voyageur’s reputation as the world’s largest “kitchen party”


Children make snowmen and snow angels. They have snowball fights. They build snow forts. Adults shovel and dig out their cars.


And there is ice-fishing. Last week I heard people express amazement at ice fishing shacks and a lake frozen solid enough to drive a car onto it. When you’ve grown up with winter, it’s hard to believe there are people who have never seen snow. People who have never jostled along in a car so stiff with cold the tires feel square, haven’t been blinded by the exhaust fog from the car ahead of you at a red light, and have never had ice form on their eyelashes.

For some, the beauty and pleasures of winter make the bitter times bearable. Others view winter as a trial to be survived, or something to escape from. Although I appreciate parts of what winter brings, because it is so long I like to escape the cold for at least part of it. For those who don’t live here and are wondering about visiting in winter, check out Six Great Reasons to Visit Winnipeg in Winter. If you are looking for unusual winter activities, check out these three unique fun activities.


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  • Reply
    January 12, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    I am also in the camp that prefers to escape winter and have been doing it for several years. We flew back to Winnipeg for Christmas only to experience the 2nd coldest December on record in 100 years. Apparently the coldest was in 2000. Needless to say we were happy to depart after the holidays.

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      January 13, 2014 at 1:49 pm

      Hopefully, winter will be done and over by the time you next head back to Winnipeg.

  • Reply
    Doreen Pendgracs
    January 13, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    Spring can’t come fast enough for me, Donna! I’m no fan of winter, and despite the fact that it does look pretty in pics (I, too, took some today as the snow was sparkling quite beautifully.) Only 5 weeks until I head to Hawaii. Can’t wait!

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      January 13, 2014 at 7:58 pm

      Enjoy Hawaii. In the meantime, stay warm and positive.

  • Reply
    January 13, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    I lived in WI for 18 years and had many winters when the wind chills were minus 40 degrees. I’m over it! WAY over it! Laugh! But when I forst moved there I couldn’t get over how active folks were in the winter. And then I realized that life doesn’t stop because it is cold; you can’t live indoors for 9 months of the year; and there still are fun things to do, even though it’s cold. But like I said, I’m way over it! Beautiful pictures!

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      January 13, 2014 at 8:01 pm

      We learn to adapt, although it isn’t always easy and I prefer to be away from that kind of cold. Still, each place has it beauty and its challenges.

  • Reply
    Susan Cooper
    January 13, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    I have lived in places that had the harsh winters you talk about. In the beginning it’s kinda fun then cabin fever set sin and you can’t wait for spring to start. I now live in a place that winter is only something we experience on TV. Right now we are worrying about the huge lack of winter rains to replenish the water reserves. It just shows you there is no perfect place. huh. 🙂

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      January 13, 2014 at 8:04 pm

      Weather does seem to bring different concerns to each part of the world. Hope you get some rain.

  • Reply
    Debra Yearwood
    January 14, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    This winter has started hard and remained fierce. I can’t believe it’s only January, however when I’m sweltering in July and wondering for the 80th time if I can turn up the air-conditioning to make it just a little cooler, I’ll try to remember all the whining I’m doing now. If we’re talking about the weather, we must be Canadian. 🙂

  • Reply
    Jason Butler
    January 14, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    I live in Georgia. I am so happy I don’t have to experience that. I hate the cold weather lol.

  • Reply
    Meredith Wouters
    January 16, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    I’m from Texas, now living in New Mexico, and I think the winters here get pretty unbearable! I always wondered what people in Canada do to get through it. I love your optimism – Spring will come eventually!

  • Reply
    Rachel Noel
    January 16, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    AHH, I think I would be horrified by those temps, but the snow… ah, the snow! It’s so beautiful. And what fun activities to do with it. I’m sure it was an awesome experience, even if you’ve moved to warmer temps 🙂

  • Reply
    Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer)
    January 17, 2014 at 4:28 am

    Newly fallen snow is beautiful, but if you live in a city, by the time you finish shoveling, the snow is kind of grimy. I’m from Philadelphia, a Mid-Atlantic city. Our winters are much more tolerable than those in Manitoba and some of the northern US prairie states. But, by February, I’ve about had it with winter. I’m writing this from Cambodia—no winter here (just the rainy season and the dry season). We are traveling for a month in Southeast Asia before settling in Hawaii for 3 months where my husband is doing a sabbatical. Yeah. I’ll get to find out whether or not Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing. 😉

  • Reply
    Beth Niebuhr
    January 17, 2014 at 10:32 am

    Having experienced 4 winters in Duluth, Minnesota as a child and many in Iowa, I escaped the year after I graduated from college. Lived in San Francisco, Santa Barbara and now Prescott, AZ. I enjoyed your article.

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