Mariton: Cold Weather Perspectives

January 7, 2014

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

It is cold out there, no doubt about it.  The local weather forecasters are making a big deal about it.  Granted there are a lot of smart people out there that can’t figure out winter clothing.  Let me add my own perspective about the hype.

In 1978 I dropped out of college for a couple years to reevaluate my future.  During that period I worked for my dad building houses.  That winter was particularly cold and snowy in our part of Michigan.  For weeks we received several inches of snow every other night and the mercury never broke zero.  The thing that I remember most was cross country skiing every night after dark.  Because I was using waxes on my skis I paid attention to the temperature before I went out.  It was routinely -20 when I would hit the trail (colder by the time I returned).  I never gave it much thought, except that I loved the glide of the polar white and special green waxes, as opposed to blue wax.

My other gripe with the TV weather folk is using wind chills to exaggerate the cold.  Wind chill factoring tables have been calculated to go down to zero wind speed, but wind chills don’t really matter until the wind gets above 10 miles per hour.  Talking about wind chills below that is just hyperbole.  If you are not dressed properly for 20 degrees, you aren’t dressed for 20 degrees with a 5 mph wind.

There is one big difference between growing up in Michigan and dealing with the cold here– the fluctuations.  I remember months where it never got above 20 degrees.  When it stays cold for long periods there is not that much difference between 20 degrees and 10 degrees.  Here it can be 50 degrees one day and zero the next.  That is tougher, but you know what?  They make clothing for that.

Cold weather clothing has progressed leaps and bounds since 1978.  There is thermal underwear that will keep you comfortable at the bus stop, and yet not make you sweat when you get to work.  Remember this:  good long johns are a much better investment than most of the clothes in your closet.  It will pay you back this winter.