By Steve Roark
With winter weather there are two distinct camps of people: those that love it and those that do not. You may have picked up in past articles that I am in the love winter camp, and cold/snow fans have actually been labeled. We are chionophiles (ki-own-a-files), those who thrive in cold winter conditions, especially in snow. It’s a Greek word that literally means “snow lover”.
Snow is for me the premier winter event, totally changing a familiar landscape into a beautiful wonderland. It transports me back to my childhood, remembering that special feeling I got when walking on snow that nobody else has walked on. The muffled silence a snow brings is almost eerie, especially when large flakes are falling without making a sound. Snow has the power to stop life as you know it, at least for a little while, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
In the hectic modern lifestyle, cold weather has a way of slowing you down. Maybe you do more sitting near a fire sipping hot chocolate or curling up with a good book. Being out in the cold forces an awareness of ourselves and our surroundings as few other environments can. Cold, especially the extreme kind, can be hazardous, requiring that you stay focused on the moment, monitoring if parts of you are getting cold and what to do about it. For me, part of the enjoyment of being out in the cold is keeping it at bay. With the softness of modern living, getting out in really cold weather has a survivalist feel about it and gives a feeling of triumph when you make it through. As someone once said: when you can see your breath, you know you’re alive.
Here’s the thing: I don’t like being cold, I like being warm while out in the cold. I’ve camped out in zero-degree weather with brutal wind chills and drifting snow. The very air hurt. But clothing and a good sleeping bag is what separates being comfortable from the being miserable. To enjoy winter weather is to dress for it. So layer, layer, layer as your mom used to insist on. Wicking underwear to keep your skin dry and hold heat; one or more insulating layers, fleece being my favorite. And a wind and moisture repelling outer layer jacket with a hood. Other necessities include insulated gloves (mittens are warmer) and a good ski cap (a lot of heat goes out your head). And if it’s really cold, a scarf or neck gaiter to protect your neck and face, and good snow-proof boots. Chemical hand warmers are a Godsend when you’re needing to use your hands.
Of course, some people are as attached to warm seasons as much as I am to cold ones, and that’s okay, to each his own. This group has also been labeled and are called Thermophiles: heat loving creatures. Or perhaps you’re somewhere in the middle, where you like to see winter snows, just not be out in it. In Iceland they have a word for that, Gluggavedur (glue-gah-veh-dure) or “window weather”: weather that looks nice but is better experienced behind a windowpane. For myself, I’m with Aristotle, who said: “to appreciate the beauty of a snowflake it is necessary to stand out in the cold.”