Why do they call it an ice axe and not a chillax?

It’s finally happened. The ground is covered in layer upon layer of super cold water, drifting down from the sky for hours on end. For what feels like the first time this year, we have a bonafide blanket of snow. This early in the season there’s a novelty that overstays its welcome a few months down the line. The footpath is soft and crunchy. There’s a peculiar density that also gives in a comfortable way. It’s my fourth Canadian winter, but the freshness hasn’t quite left. Yet again, I’ll give it some time. Come February I’ll be baying for spring rains. Welcoming snow into my day to day was a massive change in perspective. There was a bunch to relearn about logistics and the navigation. Context being that I hadn’t dealt with a frozen winter for the first 26 years of my life. For anyone who still doesn’t, here are a few things:

  • Snowfall varies just like rain. Light snow is pleasant. It almost bounces off you. There’s little trouble in simply brushing it off your shoulders. It gets heavy and when it does you’ll know it. Walking becomes more of a trek and you’ve gotta make sure your feet are finding purchase. Snow falls at an annoying angle. I don’t know how it feels for other people, but it seems to zero in on my eye level when looking straight ahead. Even in moderate snowfalls I find myself staring downwards, so as not not to cop eyes full of it.
  • Snow is lovely and fills the streets with a unique wonderment. Ice is a bastard and a half. Remember what I said about feet finding purchase? There’s no easier way to crack your tailbone than by not paying attention to where you’re walking. I figure I’m lucky, but so far I’m batting around one slip per season. It’s pretty fucking dangerous and bizarre to think that the simple act of strolling down the street could quite easily injure you. Bruises for days.
  • Because of the above, shovelling snow is more important than you’d think. I’m not sure about other cities, but in Toronto it’s the duty of the resident to keep their footpaths clear. We got a warning notice from the council last year because we hadn’t shovelled our footpath for a day or two. In theory I support this. In practice I’d been at my girlfriend’s for a day and a half. I couldn’t do anything without being there, y’know? You want to have a decent shovel. We have some bent, beaten up old piece of shit that lives in our shed. Every year I think of replacing it. Every year I get no further towards action. Thankfully we have a bag full of salt to help out where the shovel fails.
  • I thought salt was curious when I first got here. At supermarkets, etc, they have big ten kilo bags. You cover the footpath and it’ll melt the ice. Works pretty quickly. In the off season you’re assured your daily sodium quota. Or not, it’s in these massive granules, I’m guessing it’s not suitable for cooking.
  • Layering. When it gets cold you’ll start loading on layers. Hat, scarf, gloves. When it gets really cold you’ll add another layer underneath your clothes. Thermal underwear feels like you’re wearing a hug. Then you get to work where there’s central heating. Suddenly you feel like you’re wearing a sauna. Layering. Like John Romero, it’s about to make you its bitch. Commuting is miserable. Wonderful Christmastime, eh?
  • Speaking of which, there’s a magic quality to a winter’s Christmas. Colourful lights dancing off the snowy ground. It has to be seen in person to be felt. As a lifelong curmudgeonly humbugger, Christmas in the cold ain’t so bad. I guess there’s a reason why I’m onto my fourth one.

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