I wonder if this post will bust some stereotypes about Canadian winters. So, here goes!
Before I Moved:
Okay. I admit it. I fell for certain stereotypes about Canadian winters. Living in California for seven years after living in London didn’t help me to challenge those stereotypes. When I did tutor training, I watched this TED talk called The Danger of the Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I watched it again after I moved because I knew I was going to have experiences that challenged my preconceptions about Canada. What really resonates with me is how honest she is about the times she has fallen for the Single Story. She also talks about how she has been treated because other people had a Single Story in their minds. Here’s the video of The Danger of the Single Story below if you’re interested.
What I initially thought about Canadian Winters:
Okay, a disclaimer before I show these photos! It doesn’t help stereotypes to always have snow in memes when you’re talking about Canada!
Cold right? It’s also funny!
Okay. 5 degrees isn’t exactly shorts and sandals for me personally. I can go out wearing a down jacket and carrying a sweater with me just in case it gets colder. There was no need to layer up though. I was rather proud of myself for taking the garbage out in my hoodie at -10 degree weather during my quarantine period and I wasn’t even cold! My friends in California balked when I told them! I did think that winter was going to be constant sub-zero temperatures. My imagination told me I would need to layer up every time I go out, and that there would always be thick layers of snow. Boy, was I wrong! 😱 One good thing is that I have friends in Calgary who did tell me a bit about the winter before I moved. They didn’t tell me everything though, which I appreciated because I wanted to discover some things on my own. I knew about the need to layer up when it was subzero though. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos on the subject. My friends talked about chinooks too but didn’t say too much about them. I learned more after moving. Read on to find out what I have learned so far this weird winter!
As many of you know, I arrived in Canada in mid-October. You can read my first impressions of Canadian winter in my following posts:
After I arrived, it snowed for 3 days straight! I was just pissed off that I couldn’t go out for a walk to enjoy it because I was in my mandatory quarantine period! I figured there would be more big snowfalls later on, BUT so far, there haven’t been any other snowfalls as big as that! If you have questions about driving in the snow, I can’t answer them right now. I made the decision to not drive this winter. First of all, I have to figure out the process of getting a driver’s license. It’s dependent on your immigration status. Second of all, the only time I drove in the snow was when I spent a Christmas at Yosemite. My plan is to get used to driving in Canada in the “summer” (such as it is)😂. That should give me time to learn about things I need to do before winter hits again.
After my Mum and I were done with quarantine, we had to pick something up at Best Buy. The guy who helped us noticed we had US government I.D. He welcomed us, asked where we moved from, and then asked how we liked the weather. I said it was beautiful! He said, “You like our weather? Wait 20 minutes.” Now I know that’s a common thing to say in Calgary. He ended up talking our ears off about the weather and climate in Calgary and Alberta! The main points were that he has seen it snow in July, and people sunbathing in November. This was the first time we found out that chinooks can give you migraines because of the sudden change in barometric pressure. I got him talking about the weather in Alberta when I told him about this reel I found on Instagram!
He said Lake Louise gets much deeper snow than Banff. I am hoping I can experience all of that and more in the winter soon! The snow that fell during my quarantine stayed for a long time, and we did get a bit more snow in the second week of November. Here are some more snowy November photos, but they weren’t taken all at once.
My favourite time was when I was taking a morning walk and the trees were covered in hoarfrost!
What I really love about Calgary is it’s sunny! I wasn’t expecting that as much because Calgary is 51 degrees North. It’s the same latitude as London and I would describe that city as anything but sunny. If the temperature is low, it doesn’t really have an effect on melting the snow. I was at the Co-op once and I saw this bit of clever advertising from Cal & Gary’s. 👏👏👏
Later in the month, I was kind of curious why we weren’t getting as much snow as I thought we would. My Mum and I went through a rough time in late November. It would have been super nice to have had some snow to make things beautiful!
The month changed and I was still incredulous about the weather. Were we going to get snow soon? I felt like Calvin and Hobbes when Calvin is simply desperate for snow! I read this article about speedskaters practicing on a lake in Alberta, and I thought, “What?” There was no sign of it snowing in Calgary, much less the river freezing!
Then, I remembered that Calgary has its own microclimate that has actually been significant in its history. The Blackfoot and the Métis would hold gatherings where the Bow and Elbow rivers intersect. If you think about the rest of Alberta’s climate, you begin to understand why they chose this nice little microclimate!
In the first week of December, we had a chinook! I’m not kidding. I used to think they happened in the spring, but apparently, there were some warm temperatures around Canada that week. The temperature broke an 81-year old record. I heard that in general, Calgary gets 2 or 3 chinooks in a winter. Last year, I heard they got about six chinooks. I feel sorry for the people who get migraines! I personally don’t get migraines, but my Mum does. I get ear pressure though, which is pretty painful! During the chinook, I popped my ears and got a nosebleed. I kid you not, AccuWeather has a migraine monitor. I find it useful to look at even if I don’t get migraines because I can plan for ear pressure too. It did eventually snow, but it wasn’t a long snow shower. The overall temperature is colder now though.
A friend of mine told me there are four seasons in Calgary: Almost Winter, Winter, After Winter and Roadworks. I would say after December’s chinook that we went from Almost Winter to Winter. There is a standing joke here about only being able to tell what the weather is going to be by looking out the window. Okay, I don’t really get it right now, so bear with me, please!
I got some weird questions about life in Canada during the winter after I moved. I never miss a chance to nicely tease my California friends for asking me those questions though! 😏 One of my theories for this weird winter is that I brought some California weather with me to hold us for a while! To my fellow Calgarians, you’re welcome!
I have learned not to say anything about future weather predictions, particularly for snow. No jinxing for me! Any time someone says we’re expecting some kind of weather, I say, “What are you talking about? What… (fill in the blank with either chinook or snowfall)?”
A Word on Canada Geese:
I thought when I moved here that the geese would have migrated and I would miss seeing them. Not true. There are still some geese here who haven’t flown south yet. Don’t believe me? The photos below were taken this month! The reason why I thought they would be gone was that in the movie Fly Away Home, they go south with the geese in late October.
I often take walks along the Elbow River, so I see geese congregating there before they fly south. What’s really strange is I hear them going south when it’s dark out, and I’ve only ever known them to be diurnal.
I love seeing the city wildlife here! I’m actually doing an Instagram series of photos and videos of what I see. Follow me @winteroseca or follow my hashtag #discoveringcalgarywildlife you can see them!
So, there you have my weird and wonderful Calgarian winter! What are your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments!