And Then it was Winter


I arrived at work grinning this morning at 9am. At the risk of sounding like spam, here are my 4 simple tips to Montreal winter glee.

1. Expect the unexpected. Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. But what about doing the same thing in an extremely different conditions and expecting the same result? Fact: there’s a foot of snow on the ground. It’s going to take longer to get places than it did yesterday. People will be late. The world order will probably not fall. It’s going to be ok.

2. Don’t feel obliged to be miserable. I won’t deny that there’s misery in the Montreal winter: I was volunteering at Dans la Rue last night and it is certainly brutal to be out there, under-dressed facing a night of unrelenting blizzard. There will be -30C days yet. There will be freezing rain. But this little winter wonderland? Get over it.

3. Dress warm! Helps keep the aforementioned misery at bay. Long Johns, socks over tights, waterproof boots, mittens, scarves: so hot these days.

4. Walk.  Now that you are warm and happy and ready for something new, you may as well walk. That’s what I concluded as I passed two 105 buses stuck in traffic on the way to Vendome metro. And I wasn’t alone: as I turned towards Vendome metro I was surprised to see at least two dozen people strolling down the middle of the street (the sidewalk had not yet been cleared).

I crossed a neighbour pulling his daughter in a toboggan.

“Beautiful day,” he said in a way that may or may not have been ironic.

“Actually, it kind of is,” I replied.

“I like it too,” he confided, “it makes everybody slow down.”

Oh, and if you’re tired of listening to alarmist traffic reports, here’s a much more spirited soundtrack for the First Snow of the Year (by Hawksley Workman)


  1. 5. Don’t think about how your street, just like Marlowe Avenue above, looks pretty covered with the first snow but it will all turn to mud in a few days. Don’t think about it.

  2. Nice reminders, but I can only guess that you are working in an office of drivers, because in my world, everybody is pretty psyched. This is a great snowfall. Great skiing and playing in snow. It’s cold but not too cold. The only negative was that brutal wind last night. I do pity the poor or disadvantaged who may be suffering in this weather, but for those who are stupid enough to be in a rush or live their life by the vehicle, well you made your bed!

  3. Indeed; get out and enjoy it. As someone who was in Montreal and now in Vancouver, I miss the snow dearly. It brightens, quiets, and slows; it’s amazing how dark and loud Vancouver’s streets are in the winter months. Go and ski the trails on Mont-Royal, or those on your street, while they last.

  4. What mud in a few days? Perhaps slush, but winter is here. If we have a “normal” year, we will not be seeing the ground again until March or later.

    And the temperatures are still relatively comfortable, so it is perfect conditions to enjoy the snow. Last night, I even saw people sitting outside and enjoying themselves on a terrace:

  5. #6 help shovel an old person’s porch and sidewalk, and clean the street sidewalk in front of where you live. Don’t pile up the snow from cleaning your driveway on the sidewalk. A little civisme goes a long way. And if you are wondering who then cleaned the sidewalk and piled the snow in front of your driveway… hehehe.

  6. Worth repeating: don’t shovel your personal snow onto the (now much narrower) sidewalk. This goes double for power-plowing snow onto pedestrian sidewalks to make parking easier.

    Alanah: “I crossed a neighbour” might have to go into my lexicon of Montrealisms…

  7. …kinda on subject: I had a little “I just LOVE Montréal” moment the other day: the stairs on Saint-Christophe leading up to Sherbrooke the street are one of my favourite hidden urban places, and they’re re-doing them so it’s now temporary stairs held by scaffolding. And there’s a nice sign saying Éscalier fermé pour l’hiver, so I though sigh, oh well. But in fact, someone has cleared and salted them profusely, and the snow plow at the top has cleared a little path to the top, too. So even if officially it’s closed, the people cleaning the streets are keeping it clear for us to enjoy still. Aaaaah.

    (Another sighting, totally off topic: they’re re-doing the Berri-UQAM station, and the temporary panels they put up are covered in vinyl that is printed with a copy of the Berri-UQAM grey tiles — now isn’t that a cute little touch?)

  8. Dear Alanah,

    I liked your vignette, but can’t abide compulsory mirth – one of the major curses of the “happiest time of the year”. I loathe winter; last year was such a relief to be able to ride my bicycle and walk without being racked with (arthritic) pain. Winter is a misery for many people, not just the homeless. The expression “get over it” is the motto of red-faced neocons like Rob Ford. Leave it to them.

    That said, there are many positives to living in Montréal despite the horrid weather of those months (and our winters are shorter overall than a generation or two ago). I’m certainly happy to be living here and not in Port-au-Prince!

  9. Man how I miss my MTL first snowjob! In Hali at the moment where we have a choice between heavy rain, moderate rain, very little rain, about to rain, temporary break from rain..

    What I’d give to go out and crunch crunch crunch before the sidewalk plows whisk it away..

    Someone please go out and do some extra crunching for me!

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