Have you heard the word “Cheechako” before? Here in the Yukon it’s used to describe anyone going through their first northern winter. I’m in my third Yukon winter, but I have a very, very dear friend who is about to become a Cheechako – so this post is for her! And also for you, if you ever decide to venture north for a short or long winter visit.
Most Canadians dread winter. I used to be one of them. My least favourite things are static shocks, frozen windshield wipers, and poor driving conditions. Fortunately for me, the driving conditions in this part of the Yukon are about ten times better than those in southwestern Ontario, where I grew up. Nevertheless, there are some pretty yucky things about winter, but also some really good things. This year, when the season began in mid-October, I decided that I was going to embrace winter. Because truth be told, winter lasts a good 6-7 months here. I am happy to report that so far, winter has been wonderful. I love the way the snow builds up on the trees, how the air is crisp and calm, and how the sun shines more often than not. I love my parka and my furry boots and my sweaters. As long as it stays around -25 and above, I’m good to go. And that’s the way it’s been this winter, with a couple exceptions of -30 or -40 cold snaps.
Anyways. I’m rambling. I have compiled a list of my favourite winter items that help me survive and thrive in the Yukon.
1. A good winter coat. The first parka I bought a few years ago was awesome. It was probably 100% down, because I was never ever cold while wearing it. When we traveled south last year for a change, I gave it away because it was too bulky to bring and to be honest, way too warm for the south. When we came back, I almost regretted giving it away, but then I realized it gave me the chance to go shopping. I bought a Point Zero parka that is 80% down and I have been very satisfied with it. It has a faux-fur hood and storm cuffs that have the little thumb hole in them. I highly recommend this brand and type of parka. I looked into the Canada Goose brand, but they start at about $650. Umm… no. My parka was $200, which I was happy to spend. Very reasonable.
2. Warm boots. There is nothing worse than having cold feet! Last year I had Sorel’s, which many people here like. They worked for me.
My current boots, though, absolutely rock. I got them at a Value Village in Vancouver and I have no idea what brand they are. So that probably doesn’t help… but maybe this picture will:
3. Hat, gloves/mitts, scarf: obvious, but essential. Get the good stuff! A lot of people here have hats and mitts made by First Nations people and they are definitely the best. They use real hide and fur, which is quite common and accepted in the north. It certainly does the trick. This winter I have a Columbia toque with ear flaps and it’s been great. I am using thick black gloves, which to be honest I wasn’t sure would cut it, but so far they have been fine.
4. Socks that don’t slip off: Argh! Another winter pet peeve of mine. I really dislike the feeling of walking with my socks around my heels. Or having them come off when I’m taking off my boots. I just happened to buy socks in the summer that have served me well so far this winter. I don’t know what brand they are or even where I got them… probably Walmart… so you’ll just have to experiment.
5. Slippers: so crucial!! The ones I have right now are fabulous. They are sheepskin with hard bottoms, and they slip on and off really easily. Last year I had a pair of slipper socks, which I do not recommend because it took a bit of effort to get them on and off, and doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of SLIPpers?!.
6. Long johns: I wear long johns or tights every day from October to May! Yes! Absolutely essential in my opinion. Brand doesn’t really matter – you just need an extra layer under your jeans or whatever.
7. Hand cream: it is very, very dry in the Yukon, all year round basically, and I have experimented with many different types of hand creams. My favourite is Glysomed. I put it on every night before bed and that keeps my hands from getting dry or cracked. You definitely want the good stuff… it’s worth the investment. Glysomed body lotion is also a good idea.
8. Puffs: My favourite brand of tissue. It’s really soft Even if I don’t have a cold, I’m constantly blowing my nose, especially if I go for a walk. I have a box of tissue in the stroller because I always need it.
9. Lip Balm: also crucial! I apply lip balm all day and my lips are still chapped sometimes. Maybe I need to experiment with different brands, but so far my favourite is Burt’s Bees(peppermint flavour).
10. Housecoat: this one is not as important, but it definitely helps. We keep our house fairly cool to help save on propane, and a housecoat helps to keep my mornings cozy
11. Warm beverages: tea is my preference. But I’m sure coffee or hot chocolate would be good options too. Nothing like a hot drink on a cold day!
What’s your favourite winter survival item?