Winter in Canada: The Reality

Sugar Beach, Toronto

Unless you’ve been hibernating, you’d know that Canada and the United States have been hit by the polar vortex this Winter, turning the entire area into Winterfell.

This April 2014, we’re coming up to six months of snow.

Six months of snow.

Lake Ontario

Every time an Australian friend proclaims how lovely that would be, I get the feeling they’re thinking of snowboarding for six months straight, with clear days and fresh powder. Not tramping through 5 feet of snow to get anywhere, packed with carefully hidden layers of ice to land you on your backside.

And they’re thinking of après ski beverages, wearing trendy Burton gear, sitting in a bar with a roaring fire. Not dragging 20 kilos of groceries through dirty snow with dampy, white stains growing up to your knees on your Walmart tracksuit pants. Tracksuit pants which are layered on top of more tracksuit pants, and leggings, and socks, and boots.

Lake Ontario, Toronto Harbourfront

They’re also imagining minus 10, maximum. Not minus bloody thirty five – or minus 50-60 if you’re in Saskatoon, Winnipeg or Alberta.  And they’re imagining coming home to hot baths, not coming home to an iced over drive way which you have to shovel off and cut ice away from, giving you crippling lower back pain.

And in their minds, they have heat, lights, and internet. Not entire cities that shuts down during an icestorm.

Yep, that’s the reality of winter here!

Red Path Sugar Mill Toronto

For approximately 5.5 months of this Winter, I’ve pranced about like Olaf from Frozen declaring my love of all things snow, and cold, and declaring how fabulous winter is.  In response, North Nomad has taken particular delight in sharing LOTR memes about “Second Winter” with me whenever I jubilantly mention Spring.

I did expect it to have warmed up a bit by the end of March, so I’ve been a little less excited about Winter in the past couple of weeks.


But I just try and remember how beautiful Lake Ontario is in Winter, and the things I do love about this season in this part of the world.

Like the time we had the huge ice storm, and to my astonishment, every tree in Toronto was covered in beautiful icicles. North Nomad laughed at me when I said everything looked like Christmas decorations. Apparently, this is what real winter looks like!


And how cute the little kids look in their winter gear, like little star fishes with their limbs sticking out at angles. And how cute they are ice skating in the many free skating rinks around. And how much better at ice-skating toddlers are than me.

Lake Ontario freezes during the cold(er) temperatures, and a huge layer of snow settles on top, making it look like a cream cake frosting with a dusting of icing sugar. And when it gets warmer, the snow melts, and the ice cracks in cool, geometric patterns, looking like a Picasso creation.

Lake Ontario

For some reason, most of the birds didn’t fly south this year, so I had all of the wild life that keeps me entertained on my walks still around. Then there’s the fish in Lake Ontario – the extreme cold has been hugely beneficial to the health of the fish population, which is expected to flourish this year. And the ice wine industry popular in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region has boomed with the extended winter season.

Lake Ontario

So there is a lot to love about your average day in Winter here in Canada.

Sometimes, we just wish it was a bit shorter.

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13 thoughts on “Winter in Canada: The Reality

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  3. Oh, Winterfell (I’m so excited for Game of Thrones! <3 ) …but 6 months of snow is frightening. :[ I wish some of that could be transmuted into rain for California!

    Those pictures are beautiful though! (I like telling people that I enjoy winter/snow as long as I don't have to be in it involuntarily, haha.) And oh, Olaf! <3 I've been working at a peds clinic for the past month-ish, so there's definitely been a lot of Frozen and Tangled in my life lately!

  4. I was standing on the banks of Lake Ontario this past summer thinking about how fun it will be to live there. Then my husband reminded me of the brutal winters and the lake effect. Let’s just say–Canada will see me in the summers!

  5. Shew, that is a lot of snow. I’m a southern girl so I don’t think I could handle all that. It is beautiful though. Thanks for sharing your insight!

    • Three years ago I would have said the same. I’d lived in Australia in the warmth amongst the beaches my whole life, so this was a *little* bit of a shock. You do get used to it though! 🙂

  6. wow beautiful photos! I’m in California so we don’t get this kind of weather, except up in the mountains. I really wish we could get some of this cold and rain, to be honest, because we really need it! Enjoy the cold while you can – hope it gets warmer for you soon ♥

    • Hehe thanks Tiana! Yes, we lived in California for a while and it reminded me of the drought we went through in my home in Australia when I was growing up. I hope California gets a reprieve soon!

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