When we were first assigned to Calgary, everyone warned us of the horrible the winters that lay ahead. They don't call Canada "the Great White North" for nothin'! Some of the more bleak predictions warned of regular -40 degree days (note: -40 is where celsius and fahrenheit meet).
We took the warnings to heed, physically and psychologically preparing ourselves for what would surely be the longest winter of our lives. We spent a lot of money on winter tires (a MUST) and super warm parkas (maybe a must depending on your tolerance for cold. But you don't need to spend $1K on a Canada Goose). We got a good snow shovel and ice melting salt. We bought new gloves, hats, scarves. We prepped our house, storing everything in the garage. We stocked up on bulk food and products from Costco, under the assumption that we would be spending a lot of weekends and nights stuck in the house.
It hasn't turned out that way. More than halfway through the winter, our description of 2015-2016 winter has been: meh! Turns out, it's been one of the most mild winters in history. Granted, we've had a few cold spells. The coldest day we experienced in Calgary was -13F (-25c) in late December. There were weeks in December and January when the temperature never got above freezing, and we've had a few snow "storms". Fun fact: it doesn't snow in Calgary as much as on the east coast. And when it does, it's rarely more than 3-5 inches, and the snow is so fluffy and powdery, you can sweep it away with a broom. But even when the temperatures dipped into single digits, it's soon followed by the warming phenomenon known as "Chinooks" -- a warm dry wind from the Pacific that blows over and down the east side of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. When the Chinook winds roll into Calgary, the temperatures can rise from 10F to 30F in just a few hours! (It was 55 and sunny in Calgary today, while it was only 31 and snowing in NYC today).
The Two Crabs have EMBRACED the winter. We've gone skiing, snowmobiling, dog sledding. We have no problem with bundling up and walking 1 mile in the snow to our neighborhood pubs. As devoted skiers, we've explored several of the world class ski resorts within a 2 hour drive of Calgary (more details in a future post). And we've welcomed 5 wonderful friends to our home in fall and winter, including two dear friends who visited us in the dead of winter in January. We've experienced activities we never would have done otherwise...like human curling! And in a few weeks we will be heading to Yellowknife, a city near the arctic circle most famous as being one of the top places in the world to view the aurora borealis -- the Northern Lights.
A few photos from our first Canadian winter:
Top places to experiencing winter in Alberta:
Best ski resort: Sunshine Village, Banff
Best place to learn to ski: Calgary Olympic Park, Calgary
Best dog-sledding tour company: Snowy Owl Tours in Canmore, AB
Best snowmobiling company: White & Wild, Golden, BC
Best hotel: Fairmont Lake Louise