Over the Christmas and New Year break Connie, Joni and I travelled to Canada taking Joni home for the first time to meet all her cousins and Aunts, Uncles, and other family members. Canada in the winter can be quite cold and because I've never lived there and Connie hasn't properly lived through a winter since she moved to Aberdeen all those years ago it was a bit of a shock to go to Canada this year and be hit with quite a lot of snow.
But when we arrived it wasn't like that - quite the opposite. In fact, the last time we had been home in the winter was back in 2012 when we travelled the long-way round via Heathrow. Then, as this year, we arrived to a mild winter and no snow on the ground bar the ever-present snow banks. In 2014 however, even the snow banks we missing from the streets. It was chilly, but barely dipping below 0°C for about a week. Even Christmas day, which had been nailed on to be a wintery wonderland was called a "green Christmas" in the news, where in Canada they have the opposite of the bets normally made in the UK for a white christmas (something that I think has only happened a few times in my adult life).
Parry Sound, where we were located for the majority of the time we were home, is sat on Georgian Bay which is a large bay of one of the Great Lakes, Lake Huron. One night, towards the end of our stay, an ex-Coastguard Captain sat me down and explained why the snow was so bad and why it normally isn't that bad. Essentially, the wind is South Westernly in Canada, which draws the wind across these lakes from West to East. If the lakes aren't frozen and the temperature ends up around -8°C the wind whips the moisture off the lake up into the clouds and as soon as it makes landfall dumps a metric fuck-ton of snow on wherever it finds. As Parry Sound lies on the coast of the bay it gets this "lake effect snow" a lot if the lake hasn't frozen over. Because the weather had been so mild the bay was narely 20% frozen, giving the sqaulls massive amounts of fuel to dump snow on Parry Sound.
And boy did it snow. It snowed a lot. In fact, for three days around five foot of snow was dropped on the town in varying levels of snow sqaulls, as they are known. These aren't snow showers - instead complete blizzards that randomly swing across, like bands of white noise, and they dump snow on everything all the time for hours on end. I found the endless snow fall a novelty and went out in the whiteout conditions quite regularly, taking the dog for a walk in the snow during blizzard conditions that was amusing to my Canadian family. I found the endless snow fun at first, but it took three days of not really getting to go out for me to lose patience.
The thing about snow is that it doesn't follow with freezing cold temperatures. The coldest it went down to when the snow was falling was around -10°C. One thursday it dropped to below -33°C, and factoring in windchill it probably felt around -37°C. That was officially the coldest I have ever experienced.
The cold has unique issues that most people in the UK don't even comprehend. The cars have to be plugged in over night to stop their engine oil from freezing up inside the engine block. Each autumn most homes buy loads of wood and burn it on a wood stove to heat the house. The weather channel shows not only the most accurate reports I've ever seen, but also predicts the amount of snow that will fall, and lets you know how long you have outside before frostbite starts taking your limbs right off.
I think I prefer Texas' extreme weather to Canada's extreme weather though. Not that I can go out in either (extremem sunburn versus frostbite) but at least one doesn't require 10 minutes of preparation before heading out. I think in the 12 months in Texas I wore as many layers of clothes as I do in three years in the UK, and certainly had more skin showing (a good thing, as I certain you'll all agree).