A Rain-Softened Brit: Coping With The Cold In Calgary

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My friends and family back home just love asking me what the temperature is.  It’s pretty much always the first thing we talk about when I appear on Skype. The English have a fascination with the weather which is certainly not just a false stereotype. That’s why Calgary is so enthralling for us Brits. Its unpredictability and pretty unforgiving winter weather makes England’s look vanilla in comparison.  The phrase ‘it’s a bit nippy out’ doesn’t quite cut it when you sometimes have to walk to class in painful wind chills of around -20°C. It feels like a slap to the face. I think the coldest temperature I’ve experienced so far, was around -40°C. I think I hibernated that weekend. And the first time I saw millions of tiny ice particles glistening in the air, one bright and frosty morning, I thought I was dreaming.

Dressing for Vancouver in late December - mild and wet. Practically English weather.

Dressing for Vancouver in late December – mild and wet. Practically English weather. I’ve definitely started to be hardened by Calgary.

Luckily for us, it never rains in Calgary. Instead… it snows. And maybe that’s an exaggeration but the last time I felt raindrops was when I was in Vancouver in December. I find myself yearning  for the unrelenting English rain and all its variants; big splashy showers, light drizzles, icy sleet, damp mist. It’s funny what you start to miss when you haven’t been home for a while… The icy, dry air does no wonders for your skin or nails, I walk around with perpetually chapped lips and cracked knuckles. Hand cream and Vaseline are my new two ‘can’t live withouts’.

Thankfully, it’s not all perpetual snow and frost bite. Because the weather is dry it tends to be relatively warmer. For example, zero degrees here is not as unpleasant as the same temperature at home because there’s none of that horrible damp which gets right down to your bones. And because it rarely rains, most days are also deceptively filled with blue skies and sunshine.

Plus a few days ago it was over 16°C.

Yep, I kid you not. The weather is really fickle. It can’t make up its mind. Freeze, freeze, thaw, snow and freeze again. That tends to be the general pattern. Being far in land, one assumes that the weather would be reasonably stable but Calgary is blessed by this incredible weather phenomenon called a Chinook. Their arrival is signified by a magnificent arch of clouds in the sky. It really is a sight to behold. As soon as you see it, you know that the temperature, and everyone’s spirits, will dramatically rise in a matter of hours. I’ve finally started to accept these extreme fluctuations as the norm but I still can’t help but comment every time there’s such a shift in temperature and I find myself stripping off a layer or two or slipping on some watery freeze-thaw.

You know what? Despite the snow and the ice, it’s not too bad. One thing I learnt very quickly was that if you have the appropriate clothing on, you can deal with whatever the weather decides to throw at you (Yep, it took me 21 years and a trip to Canada to learn that…). Because why should the cold stop you going out and having fun, seriously? Therefore I thought it might be interesting to show you how to dress for Calgary weather (now that I’m a little more weather wary). This picture was taken in early January when the temperature was well into the minus twenty figures…

How to dress for a day out at Calgary Zoo: me and James modelling winter chic

So yeah, it can be pretty chilly most of the time but with the right apparel on and a bit of madness you can learn to embrace it.
Until next time…


PS: There’s always the gloriously hot weather of summer and fall to look forward to (although sometimes it snows then too…).

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