Surviving your first winter in Canada will require a little bit of planning and thought. Winter in Nova Scotia generally starts with a big dump of snow mid-November as a “get yourself organised” warning and then the real winter conditions start in January through to March, with plenty of snow, ice and cold temperatures.
Compared to other parts of Canada with hazardous, extreme cold and severe winter conditions, our winters in Nova Scotia are pretty manageable. We do have snow but it’s warm enough to actually get outside and enjoy it without freezing to death.
As a newcomer to Canada, knowing what to expect and how to prepare yourself and your family for winter in Canada will be a smart idea:
Clothing and footwear – I would suggest you wait until you get to Nova Scotia, Canada before buying your insulated clothing and footwear. Compared to other countries, winter in Canada is harsh and you need to make sure that the clothing you are purchasing will keep you warm and dry in our conditions. When we first came here from the UK, we brought ski clothing that we had used in Europe, it did us for a while but was definitely not insulated enough.
Invest in a good pair of snow boots. These are a must-have item and will keep your feet warm and dry. The winter boots you buy in Canada are designed to withstand temperatures as low as minus 30-minus 50. You don’t need to spend a fortune either. You can buy good quality winter clothing in Costco, Marshalls, Winners, Sears, MEC. Shop around.
Dress in layers. Outdoors is often very cold but homes are well insulated and warm, so layer your clothing. Invest in long shirts, sweatshirts, gloves, good socks, scarves etc.
If you are out and about for a long time on a hike or at the ski hill, think about putting a set of disposable hand warmers ( I bought a huge pack at Winners for $7) in your gloves. Our kids love them and they just help add to the warmth factor.
A shovel or two will be your best friend. You will need to keep one in your car and several at home (depending on where you choose to live). Our driveway is 120 foot long so we have four shovels – no excuses for anyone not to help dig us out. After experiencing his first winter in Canada, Rich bought himself an ATV with a snow plow (plough) to clear our driveway and it has paid for itself over the years. A lot of our neighbours have a snow blower to shift the snow effectively. It all depends on where you live and how long your driveway is.
Keep a snow brush and an ice scraper in your car as well, you will definitely be using it. I always keep a small bag of kitty litter in my car. You would be surprised at how effective it is at helping you gain traction if you do get stuck. Traction sand is also another option – it’s just a little heavier.
The main thing to remember is…you are in Canada now and the weather can change very fast. Keep an eye on the weather forecast, as plummeting temperatures, freezing rain and snow can make a huge difference in your day. I was obsessed with the weather channel when we first came here. A whole channel dedicated to Canada’s weather…
Also plan your transportation ahead. If you drive you will need to allow extra time to warm your car (or plug it into a block heater if you are moving to a colder Canadian province than Nova Scotia). Buses are generally very efficient, although when inclement weather hits Nova Scotia, buses may follow the snow plan and re-route to maintain service.
If you are travelling any distance at all, I would suggest you put together a winter survival kit to keep in your car. As well as the telescopic snow shovel, ice scraper and brush (and kitty litter), a few essential items include:
- a tow rope,
- road flares,
- a set of warm clothing,
- thermal lined gloves,
- a flashlight or two,
- and a few candles with a tin can holder.
It’s also advisable to keep extra water and non-perishable food supplies handy. You honestly never know when you are going to become stuck in a snow bank or break down. And waiting around for a few hours (or longer) in winter temperatures can be extremely hazardous.
Driving can take a little getting used to. The biggest tip is to make sure you have good winter tyres on your vehicle. Yesterday’s first snow storm of the winter meant lots of accidents, mainly because not everyone puts winter tyres on their vehicle (it’s not the law in Nova Scotia). Many drivers continue to drive too fast and often without their light on. Braking , driving and controlling a vehicle on snow and ice requires an extra margin of caution and skill, it’s something you will develop the longer you are here.
Life is good in Nova Scotia. Even in the winter.
As always, get in touch if we can help in any way!
Jane & Rich
Moving 2 Nova Scotia