Winter is a thing in the Midwest. It’s not just any winter, either, but the full range of winter, from a few flakes in the sky to 50 below zero with wind chill. I guess you could say here in Rochester and the Driftless that we are “wintering” experts, or at least we think we are.
It’s not that bad out there
Here is the mission critical list: outerwear and winter sports gear, food, drink, light, projects and, most important of all, a positive mindset. “I rediscovered snow pants as an adult over 40,” says Cassie Kennedy. “If you want to fall in love with winter all over again, get a $20 pair of snow pants. I also have tungsten spikes I put on my shoes to be steadier on my feet.” Yes, the bunny suit is the way to go, or at least a good long parka with rain pants over a solid pair of boots. Layers, face coverings and long underwear, as well as blankets, sweaters and slippers inside the house, are essential when the temperatures dip below zero.
Soup is good food
For many, soups and stews are both warming and nutritious on cold days and nights. Baking bread and pastries is a great way to warm up the house and to perfect recipes for the rest of the year. Consider hosting a soup swap with friends. Each person makes a big batch of their favorite soup, then you gather to exchange servings. It’s a great way to fill up your freezer with warm, hearty food to enjoy when it’s cold.
“I like winter projects,” says Anna McKenzie Matetic. “Got some boxes in the cellar? A blizzard weekend is the best time to go through them. Have a recipe that you’ve been wanting to try? Again—perfect indoor activity!” From playing music to working out, napping and singing around the house, this season calls us to be productive—inside. Volunteering to help others in need is another way to give back during what can be a lonely season for some in our community.
Outdoor fun: Snow is your friend
“Make sure your ice skates are sharpened before the first freeze, and do your skis fit?” says Ann Mozey. “Have it all ready and go!” There are lots of local activities to choose from, as well, whether it’s skating, curling, playing hockey outdoors, kick sledding, sledding, tubing, snowshoeing, ice fishing or skiing. Fat biking is another popular pursuit on our many snow-packed gravel roads and trails.
Katie Sloan doesn’t need convincing. “I love winter!” she says. “Hanging out and skiing at Welch Village is a great way to find a community of people who embrace the cold.”
If you have a dog, you have no choice but to get out there. “Dress for the weather, and grin and bear it,” says Gayle Kall. “Because you have a dog who deserves a nice walk…even if it’s below zero.”
If all else fails and your tabletop light bank isn’t enough, let’s face it, for some, a winter trip is essential to making it through. Favorite destinations include Florida, Arizona, Mexico, Costa Rica and Hawaii (but make sure there are no COVID-19 travel restrictions where you’re traveling).
The lessons of winter
Loretta Bast-Morgan says it well: ‘Winter is a magical time of year. For me, I call on my zeal to get out into the outside to feel and embrace winter. I take hikes and I sit with the changes; I feed the birds in the deep woods. Each month, I become aware of the life that is in nature during the winter; it is amazing. I find my groove and then find the stillness and awareness.”
Like anything else, winter is a state of mind. And if all else fails, it only lasts six months. And yet…that clarifying, sparkling air and snow, the rich silvered darkness, and coming in from the cold…this the very definition of hygge. What could be better, or more Minnesotan?