“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus

Anyone who lives in the Midwest or who has ever traveled to the northern quarters of the country, know for a fact that winter in Minnesota can be brutal. It is often a test of endurance, patience, humor, semi-hibernation and mental strength to survive it especially when it happens to be a winter like we are having this year. Countless days well below zero, dangerously cold, bone-chilling wind. Snow. Black ice on the roads. Days upon end where it never even reaches freezing. This has been one heck of a winter so far and it isn’t even half way over.

Lake Harriet Winter Minnesota

Winter can be stunningly beautiful after a big snowstorm. Lake Harriet.

So how on earth do we survive it? With skill, perseverance and conquering the power of the mind. That is how. Here are my top ten tips to surviving an extreme winter (Warning: Over 20 degrees farenheit for a low doesn’t count. We’re talking endless days below zero!).

1. Embrace it. What could be better than sleeping under all those warm blankets on a cold winter’s night? Or sitting by the fire after a day of outdoor activities sipping hot coco with the kids? Winter can be a good time to catch up on all those projects that get put behind in the summer when you never want to be stuck inside the house.

Snowman on the bench along Lake Harriet

Snowman on the bench along Lake Harriet.

2. Get outside. Take a walk, shovel, go for a run, play in the snow or build a snowman. Whenever it is possible, get outside and soak in some luscious vitamin D! We need it!

3. Get a bright lamp. Seriously we get awfully deprived of sunshine here with the short, dark days of winter. On amazon, I purchased a “sun light” (also known as a “seasonal affective disorder” light) that I put on in the morning for 15 to 20 minutes and it seems to do the trick. I use it from December until February.

4. Find new indoor hobbies and passions that you wouldn’t normally do. Last winter I took Spanish classes and this winter I finally took up the practice of yoga, something I’ve wanted to do for years but never got around to until a brutal winter pushed me over the edge. I’ve made my indoor time useful by reading more, organizing two years of family photos into albums, and learning how to cook new meals. I’ve also been playing more board games with the kids and making crafts.

5. Enjoy the abundant outdoor sports. Embrace the snow! I grew up skiing and we started our children young. Our kids are taking ski lessons so every Saturday we are up and out the door early, hitting the slopes (we do actually have ski areas here in Minnesota. This is where Olympian Lindsey Vonn got here start!). Minnesota is also great for ice skiing, cross-country skiing, sledding, and ice fishing.

Playing in the snow

My daughter Sophia playing in our backyard full of snow

6. Enjoy the multitude of culture in our dynamic city. It may be cold, but Minneapolis-St. Paul, otherwise known as the Twin Cities, has a vibrant, cultural scene. We have more outstanding restaurants than I could possibly eat at, theater, arts, music and museums. Plus we have the Mall of America (well not my most favorite place but the kids do like the indoor amusement park and if you like to shop, you can spend hours at this place).

7. Every now and then splurge: Get a pedicure, a massage or take a bubble bath. Even a nap under the covers or reading a book in bed during the day is a wonderful treat on a cold winter’s day.

8. Marvel at the beautiful new snowfalls, take lots of pictures and don’t gripe about the roads. If all possible, make sure you have a Four-wheel or all-wheel drive car. Otherwise take the bus!

Minnehaha Creek

The beautiful Minnehaha creek after a fresh coat of snow.

Rose Petals on the snow

Enjoy at the unexpected. Rose Petals on the snow.

9. Have all the appropriate cold weather clothing available. An extremely warm jacket with a hood is a must. A warm hat, gloves, long-johns, waterproof boots, and of course a balaclava often comes in handy to protect against skin freezing wind chills.

Fun Boots

I love my boots and they are a must have here! For women, boots to the knees are best.

10. If possible, plan an escape preferably someplace warm.  I am fortunate to plan several getaways some just a weekend and others a little longer. Last year, I spent a week in January volunteering in Honduras.

The bench Lake Harriet

The bench overlooking the lake on a sunny day.

Last but not least….have fun. Embrace. Enjoy. Marvel at the change in the seasons and remember: No hurricanes, earthquakes, scorpions, mudslides or unruly traffic jams here. Only the diehards live and stay in Minnesota. When I need more convincing, I remember to be grateful. Minnesota is a beautiful state with an amazing quality of life and a wonderful place to plant your seeds and raise a family. Yes, our winters are long. But thankfully there is always Spring.


    1. Yes I think we all have had a hard winter thus far. I personally would much rather have all the lovely snow instead of the cold. At least we can play in it instead of being stuck inside. But I’m doing my best to embrace it! March is usually our snowiest month too! 🙂

  1. The first photo of the lake is gorgeous. You seem to have the right attitude to survive the winter! Sending you sunshine and warmth from California.

      1. I’ve been told the Scandinavians emigrated over there because it is so similar to home, but haven’t been there myself either, so may have to come and take a look some day!

      2. I’ve been to Norway and I was stunned how much it reminded me of Minnesota. All the lakes, the woods, everything. It is a special connection. Hope to make it to Finland and Sweden someday. 🙂

  2. Fabulous images, Nicole. Love your amazing boots. 🙂 I suppose one gets used to the harsh winters, and you’re well equipped to deal with them. I love looking at snowy pics. Great post. 🙂

  3. I love your boots!! What an intrepid soul you are … I don’t think I could live in Minnesota (we were there in November and it was brutally cold, plus one day it barely got light!!) — but I really admire you finding the beauty there. And your photos capture the beauty so well!!

    1. Thanks Betty! Although the winters are long, very long, MN has over 10,000 lakes and is utterly beautiful. They plow the city lake paths in the winter and we can run, snowshoe, and what ever. There is a park every six blocks in the ENTIRE city with a wading pool for free. It rivals Portland in Bike trails. Yes, it is unruly cold but also a great place to live with so much nature and culture! 🙂

  4. Nicole your pictures are gorgeous ( especially those paisley boots), but I’m just thankful I’m viewing them from the tropics. 🙂 These tips are wonderful. Our son often experienced seasonal affective disorder. We got him a sun lamp, too and it made a huge difference.

    1. Ha ha…I’d never want to retire here. Many Minnesotans are “snow birds” meaning they live here in the Spring and Summer and spend the winter in either AZ or Florida! They have a different tax rate too!

  5. What an original post, Nicole! That’s great you’re seeing the positive in a long, harsh winter! It looks beautiful from your photos but seriously, are you only half way through? I just cannot imagine it. When is your Cuba trip planned? I bet you’re looking forward to that!

    1. Yes this has been one of the coldest winters since 1984!!! Normally it is long and has its moments of being below zero but it has been crazy cold since November. Oh well. Got to make the best of it as this is where we live. 🙂 I leave for Arizone in one week and can’t wait to see my parents. Then Cuba is 2/24! So glad I have some escapes planned as March is normally pretty good here. Lots of snow but warmer! 🙂

  6. Anywhere that you can ski sounds great to me! Strangely, we haven’t had much frost or snow here in the UK this year, just lots and lots of rain. And now there’s a crocodile on the loose in Somerset! Beautiful photos of the snow by the way 🙂

    1. Thanks! It has been a very cold winter here. Coldest since 1984. But at least we ski every single Saturday! Lyndsey Vonn, Olympic ski racer got her start here! 🙂

      1. I’m so envious. My nephew and niece live in Innsbruck in Austria and they have ski lessons every week. I did live in ski resorts for five winters, so I can’t complain. But I do sometimes wonder if I made the right decision in moving back to the UK and all the rain 🙂

  7. Love this article. It reminds me of when a colleague was sent to a company training course in New Prague many years ago. When he returned, we were keen to find out what he’d learnt. His reply “Never again to be in Minnesota in January!”

    1. Love that! I actually do ok for the most part with winter here as the key is embracing it and getting outside. I run year round, snow shoe, build snowmen with the kids, sled, etc. But this winter has been the coldest since 1984 and I have hardly gotten out. Minnesota is a simply gorgeous place though. 🙂

      1. I agree it is a beautiful place. I had another friend (through business) with room for a horse just outside MSP. As for 1984, that is about the year my colleague attended the training course 🙂 G&P kenP

  8. I just stumbled upon your blog. My husband is interviewing for a job in the Twin Cities area. We’re considering leaving our beloved Colorado. The winters are what really make me want to move to the area. This made it seem, eh, not as bad. I would really miss the sun though!

    1. My brother lives in Denver! If you like city life Minneapolis has a very vibrant scene and we have endless bike and running paths hat are plowed year round, plus incredible parks and lakes. Winter can be long but it is a great place I live!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.