Usually I don't let the cold get to me, where I come from it is common to have weeks where the temperatures don't go above -20°F. I remember one Christmas break where it was -48°F for a week … the power lines snapped because of the extreme cold, and we were without electricity for days. When it warmed up to -19°F, it felt like a heat wave and all of us kids went sledding. The power outage, combined with extreme cold, was fine. It was just something that happened, like seeing crazy people on the subways; an inconvenience, but nothing extreme.

We had lanterns, fireplaces and wood stoves for light and heat. For refrigeration you just moved everything to the non-insulated mud room or snowbank. Food in the freezer would stay good if you didn't leave the door open. We had Coleman camp stoves to cook on, and down comforters to sleep under. We had plenty of layers made of wool or fleece and outerwear meant to keep you warm. In fact, power outages are so common in the rural west that measures were in place place to make sure that water still came out of the pipes, and if not, we could always melt snow. The biggest inconvenience coming from winter power outages was the temperature of the toilet seat, and the fact that the toilet bowel became a sheet of ice.

Sure, the temperatures get colder where I come from, but I will take -38°F in Wyoming over a blustery 15°F in NYC almost any day!

Today, for instance, the 29°F weather.com is reporting where my parent’s live sounds like a tropical paradise. I woke up toasty in my bed only to discover that my apartment has no heat or hot water despite the single digit temperatures. Being on the 6th (top) floor of the tallest building for blocks, and not very insulated, my apartment tends to be on the chilly side no matter what. Thus, when the heat goes out and the wind comes up it becomes downright frigid. I debated not going in to work, and working from home in my warm bed, but with the heat out, I realized that I wouldn’t get much done before my hands went numb … so I got up. Yesterday was cold, so I have thrown my usual winter clothing routines aside to wear as many layers as possible:

  1. T-shirt
  2. Long sleeved t-shirt
  3. Warm sweater
  4. Tights
  5. Pants
  6. Socks that usually make my feet sweat
  7. A light-weight, warm wind-proof technical jacket that usually functions as my only coat (even in winter).
  8. My big fuzzy “grover coat” a purple, bulky, warm, wind-proof Patagonia brand fleece.
  9. A fleece-line wool hat
  10. My wind-proof fleece mittens with individual finger slots (more insulation).
  11. A huge wool/silk scarf

Yet I am still cold. Granted, I could be wearing better layers – real long underwear instead of a t-shirt and tights, but STILL. To add to my perpetual chilliness, the workers who have been banging, clanging, sawing and generally being noisy for two weeks have finally managed to fix the air at my office just in time for this cold snap. After weeks of unbearable stuffiness the air is circulating, ensuring that it is cold in here too.

Enough complaining though, I started this piece so that I could say WHY I prefer winters in Wyoming (or the west in general) over those I’ve encountered in the Big Apple.

  • First, New York has more humidity than Wyoming … the damp cold is more chilling; it makes your joints ache (People disagree with me on the damp vs. dry hot/cold, but I maintain that I am right the humidity makes the winters feel colder and the summers feel hotter. Those who have experienced the difference agree with me). In damp cold no matter how many layers of clothing you put on, you could still feel cold. With dry cold though, if you put on enough down, fleece, etc. you’ll be toasty all day!
  • Second, in Wyoming you do not walk around in the cold, you drive. You warm up the car to go from your warm house to your warm car to the warm office or store. You’re walking is a few yards at most. If, for whatever reason, you decide to be outside for any length of time, you do not have to worry about looking “nice”. You just put on all your layers of technical gear and go out skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, or even just shoveling the driveway. When you are out in the cold in Wyoming it is voluntary and usually because you are being extremely active; the worry is more about how to stay dry than how to stay warm. On the other hand, New Yorkers walk in the cold for blocks and blocks and blocks. This walking is not physically demanding and is usually to or from work or activities that require you to be dressed in a certain manner. Thus people in NYC do not wear all the technical layers, are exposed to the cold for greater lengths of time.
  • Finally, there is the wind to consider. In suburbia and rural areas the wind blows, often hard, but the spaces are relatively open so the wind can choose its path at will. In the city though the avenues and streets of tall buildings limit where the wind can go, thus the entire city is transformed into a giant wind tunnel. This enables the wind to gain speed as it is funneled through the city, enhancing the cold.

All of these factors have converged upon us this week to make the weather nearly unbearable. Tomorrow, I shall hope for heat and hot water. Starting the day off with a steamy shower always makes everything better. It gives you a chance to get really warm before you have to battle the cold. After that, I think I shall pile on long underwear and fleece not caring if these items adhere to my company’s “business casual” dress code. I may even decide to wear my Ugg boots to work (if it has stopped snowing). If only I had my Sorel pack boots out here …

I must say that compared to some city-folk I am better prepared to take on the elements — at least I know about the art of layering, and still have all my technical gear.

 

 

 

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