Ever been out in near 50 below temperature? I recommend it.

Since I am in Winnipeg to speak at a CFA conference today, and I had to eat lunch anyway, I thought — what the hell — let’s see what it is like out there.

How often do you get to voluntarily go out in insane weather? As long as I am here, I was determined to experience life in great white north.

I had told the steward on the flight in I was staying at the Delta, and he recommended a local place — Thida’s Thai Restaurant (one of 22 Thai restaurants in town). The concierge said it was less than 10 minutes walk away.

I wore jeans, very thick Timberland socks, Merrill shoes, a turtleneck, over which went an insulated Spyder sweater, then my Descente ski coat (I am not name dropping, if you ski you know the insulating qualities of these articles). That was followed with scarf, than a full turtle (to cover my mouth and nose) then a fleece earband. No long johns, no hat.

The restaurant was 3 blocks away — about as far as my office on 44th & 5th is from a food truck that parks on 46th & 6th.

I asked the desk clerk the temp, and he said “right now its 27 Below 0°F; 45 Below 0°F with the wind chill.

I set out for my 10 minute adventure.

It was cold, but I felt protected . . . for the first 20 seconds or so. You quickly realize that it is damned cold out.

I was heading SouthWest, and despite it being 12:30pm, the sun was low in the sky, casting very long shadows.

After about 2 minutes I felt my eyes kinda freeze close — batting my eyelashes  untangled whatever ice had accumulated. The inner part of my nostrils and nasal passage also felt frozen — pulling up the turtle so my mouth and nose were covered helped a lot.

This is one of the only cities I have ever visited where people walk as fast as they do in New York City. Everyone was hustling: Jogging, trotting or fast walking to where they had to be. No one was lollygagging down the street.

I approached what looked like my destination — only it was an Indian buffet joint. I looked up and down the street, didn’t see any other restaurants. Hey, maybe its set back from the road. I turned west and kept going.

I stopped to wait for a light — big mistake — the wind kicked up and my legs and head felt naked. (Mental note: Do whatever you have to do to not have to wait for a light up here). Your head begins to pound like you have a headache — brain freeze! — from the cold.

The light changed, and I hustled across the street. Still no Thai restaurant in sight. Its funny, when you don’t know where your destination is, time takes on a weird perspective. I could not tell you how long I was out, or how much further I had to go.

I felt the early sensation of panic. Damn, it was cold out here. I was pretty objective about my emotional state (Is that sensation actual panic rising? I do believe it is!). Never hurts to ask for help, so I duck into a tailoring shop to request direction. “Down the street” she says in broken English.

The 30 seconds indoors rejuvenated me. I head out down a block, and set back from the street is a little Thai joint. The food was not bad, but did that really matter? IT WAS INDOORS.

Warmed by my repast, I gird myself for the long trip back. Only this time, I use the timer on the iPhone to see how long I am out in this almost 50 below with the wind chill environment — 10 minutes? 15?

Fully dressed, ready for bear, I head out.

Its so cold, the snow does not even crunch under your feet — its solid like white cement. I walk by a public lot, where many of the cars parked outdoors were also plugged into electrical outlets, keeping their engine blocks warm.

I begin to think about the people who went to Alaska or the South Pole a 100 years ago. How impossible was that? I remember reading about what you need to do to stay alive if you fall through the ice in sub zero temperatures. If you had paraffin coated matches (they stay dry) and some flint and dry kindling, and keep your wits, you stay alive. Most often, you died. If you were really smart, you would not find yourself within 1000 miles of anywhere those things mattered.

No wonder the Germans lost to the Russians on the Eastern front.

The wind slices through my pants, I feel the front of my thighs chapping in real time. The top of my head hurts, as does the little exposed skin between my hairline and forehead muff.

It is brutal out.

I try to stay on the sunny side of the street, but the shadows are now even longer than before. The sun is behind me, and I make a dash across the street just before the light changes — no way am I waiting there again. A quick left then a right and a short block to the corner, then another left — there is the hotel.

In through the goddamned automated revolving doors — they are too slow! — I pull off my glove and hit the stop button on the stopwatch.



A lesson in perspective, to say the least. Yes, I am a giant pussy. I wrote a lost in the tundra short story for a mere 5:09. I would have guessed at least 10 minutes, maybe more.

If you ever have a chance to be outside in utterly insane conditions for a mere 309 seconds, I strongly suggest you give it a shot.


UPDATE: January 24, 2013 1:45pm

Today is Regina, Saskatchewan — only its 17 degrees below 0°F, not quite as windy, but the walk is somewhat further, and the lunch is Vietnamese. Oh, and I have a hat today — which makes a big difference.

Category: Really, really bad calls, Sports

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

83 Responses to “27 Below 0°F; 45 Below 0°F Wind Chill”

  1. Rightline says:

    Guess I’ll count you out for ice fishing next week.

  2. stonedwino says:

    BR, walking around NYC today felt almost like that…

  3. Robert M says:

    You are not a pussy, just a guy on an experiment.

    In 1977, Chicago had the great snow in. W/ the windchill it hit 75 degrees below. We had to ride the train between the cars because you couldn’t get on. On the line that runs down the Dan Ryan the train only stopped at the far three stops 95th, 87th and 79th. The Ravenswood and Howard lines were the definition of the train pushers in Japan. Everyone who could find one had on the snorkel military parkas(think Philly Phanatic) for working in Antartica and you learned to recognize a friend by their coat. The cab drivers started in front of the CBOT going north, you piled in headed down Clark, State or Broadway. You paid the meter what it said between where you got on and where you got off. The taxi cruised to Howard then turned around heading the other directions. The city towed every stalled car left in the snow to a park district lot which they then dumped snow on the roads leading in locking in your car. By spring you had no car.

  4. farmera1 says:

    Wimpy city kid, wanted to experience cold. Let me tell you about cold.

    I grew up on the planes of Iowa on a small (160 acre) typical farm for the era. Lots of winter wind, nothing to slow the winter wind from the North Pole (at least in my imagination). Wind chills of -50F were not uncommon with lots of snow (pre-climate change). Had to go out and do “chores” at 5AM. Just finding the barn in the dark with blowing snow and drifts over head high with the cold was dangerous . “Chores” included things like milking cows by hand, feeding and watering (breaking up ice was the starting point) all kinds of critters. Then go in and eat a big breakfast (eggs, bacon, potatoes, whole unpasteurized milk and home made toast and jam; no worries about putting on weight) and go to school. After school go to ball practice then go home and do “chores” again at 5PM. Long, long days of hard labor and weather was just part of the challenge.

    Fact is you learn how to deal with it. Dress in lots of layers, boots, gloves and other heavy stuff. Don’t stay out in the wind, cover everything you can, and stay dry. Bare skin freezes fast. Cattle can survive the cold, but not the wind and the cold. They had to be protected from the wind, otherwise they die.

    What did I learn from the experience? That I didn’t want to be a small farmer. Left as soon as I could. Dad sold the milk cows soon shortly after I left to go to college. The experience did teach you what hard work really is and how to survive.

    The work in the summer had just as many challenges, but I’ll save that until someone says they want to experience the heat .

  5. Mr.Tuxedo says:

    Well done.

    These are the things that let us know we are alive.

    My cats here in Connecticut. sauntered with some trepidation around the house for a few minutes today eyeing only the squirrels and the birds at the feeder, whom are much better suited for this cold.

  6. ilsm says:

    Spent a couple of winters in Fairbanks Ak.

    We dressed for it. Jeans are not good in cold, cords or wool only. At -20F use long johns! Better those ski bibs over them!

    -20F is where “real cold” starts.

  7. aleynarthur says:

    barry ritholtz in winnipeg!?!?!? i wish i knew. regina is not that far away and a free place to stay not to mention plenty of scotch to drink (To keep warm of course). i can’t believe thee barry ritholtz would come to canada during the winter… like what was he thinking?? oh right… the best place to live ever!!!!!!!!!


    BR: I’ll be in Regina tomorrow . . .

  8. TLH says:

    It was 75 in Austin, Tx, this afternoon.

  9. Harry says:

    I once spent a couple of days at the Coast Guard station in Port Clarence (about 100 NW of Nome Alaska) and it was minus 54 degrees at noon.

    One recommendation…fleece lined jeans.

  10. gato.chan says:

    Barry, you missed out on a great experience. I’ve had a couple of mornings where I stepped out in -30 weather with a slightly damp head from my morning shower and was able to feel my hair freeze in about 5 steps. It’s an interesting feeling.

  11. tzink7 says:

    Wow, I’m originally from Winnipeg!

    Your experience is not unusual. On days when it drops that far below freezing, the air is cold that when you breathe it in, it hurts your lungs. Stay warm!

  12. Larry W says:

    I’m a bigger pussy. I moved from central Pennsylvania to Atlanta and its still too F@#$ing cold in the winter.

  13. slowkarma says:

    In January 1979, a tall medical building caught fire in downtown Minneapolis in the middle of the night. I was a newspaper reporter at the time, and got out of bed to cover it. It was -19F with a 30mph wind. As the firefighters shot water up in the air (the water barely reaching the fire) it was blown back down on them as freezing sleet. I interviewed one fire fighter who was being chipped out of his iceberg. He said he wasn’t cold, he just couldn’t handle the accumulating weight. (Minneapolis firefighters don’t get cold — they wear thick rubber-like waterproof garments and heavy boots over very warm undergarments, and are essentially impervious to weather. Just don’t ask them to move very quickly.)

    However, as a long-time Minnesotan, only recently removed from that state, and a longtime snowmobiler who actually enjoyed going north in the winter, I can say that IMHO Winnepeg is one of the coldest places in North America. It’s totally exposed to everything the Arctic can throw at it, and it’s right in the middle of the continent so you get no benefit from a nearby ocean, and so on.

    I’m all in favor of people exposing themselves to various kinds of experiences, but you really have to be prepared. I’ve been downhill skiing at 10 below, but I won’t ski when it’s colder than that; I’ve been ice fishing at almost 20 below, but I was inside a shack and it wasn’t terrible. I lived in the countryside east of the Twin Cities, and in the eighties and 90s, the temps would drop to -30 or so, for a night to two, every two or three years. In those cases, I learned not to go outside, if it was avoidable at all. You can die at those temps, if you’re not prepared. The biggest thing you needed for your little venture out was a ski face-mask, and right behind that, decent long underwear and probably nylon wind pants. Seriously, you get a cab to the airport, and the cab slides off the road and the engine dies (with the heater)…you’re in trouble in five minutes. So take care and quit fuckin’ around with the cold. You are in a dangerous place.

  14. kkkwj says:

    I guess some new perspective is always refreshing, eh?

    Having grown up in Calgary as a kid playing hockey on the outside rinks, you know it’s starting to get cold when your skates don’t skate easily, because it’s so cold the weight of your body on the skate blades won’t temporarily melt the ice under your blade. They start to stick.

    And when it drops another 10 or 20 degrees, you’re spit snaps and crackles when it hits the cold air, long before it hits the street.

    I worked “up North” for a while, 800 miles from the pole (that’s way North of Alaska and the continent, in Ellesmere Island country). Once I was outside doing radio comm work when the temp was -52 below, with a 60 mile an hour wind. Of course that was completely off the wind chill chart. Using a little extrapolation, I figured that it would be the equivalent of roughly -150 below. Now THAT was cold.

    Just for jollies, I took off my glove and exposed my bare hand to the temperature. In about 3 seconds (CERTAINLY no longer than 5 seconds), my hand was stinging badly like it was under scalding water. Wow, you can imagine how fast the old Eskimo elders would die when they wandered away from the igloos when it was time to die. (Speaking of igloos, you could probably build some around Winnipeg. They take about 27 blocks of pack-snow, cut with a saw, machete, or long carving knife. Best with windblown pack snow.)

    Another time I was inside the radar shack at the end of the airstrip (you’ve seen them, round white cylinder shacks painted with red and white squares). The heater was going full blast, and it was still -20 below _inside_ the shack. Hard to get much done what with the thermal underwear, flannel shirt, sweatshirt, and 3″ thick arctic parka.

    I got my electric drill and bit ready, to drill some mounting holes on top of the shack, which required climbing a 10 foot step ladder. I whipped outside, climbed the ladder, and started drilling in less than 30 seconds. Pow! Explosions and sparks and short circuits in front of my eyes! (Of course the sun never rises up there in the winter, so you have to work with a cheesy headlamp or by the light of the moon.) It turns out the drill cord froze like a stiff potato chip in those 30 seconds, and the insulation around the wires was flaking off like good pastry dough. I lost 3 inches or so of insulation in the first moments of drilling. So much for that job.

    It was funny. Some extension cords looked industrial strength and you figured “this will never freeze” and they would freeze and flake almost instantly. And some looked like a dollar-store cheapo cables, and they’d never freeze up no matter how cold.

    Here’s to Barry for at least trying out the cold weather… Next time try dog sledding.. (smiling)

  15. rd says:

    In my 20s I had a job where we would work outside in that weather for 8 to 12 hour shifts. You get somewhat acclimated but more important you learn how to dress for it. Jeans are almost worthless for insulation, especially not without long johns. Insulated one-piece coveralls are the best way to go – the clo factor (a measure of clothing insulation) shoots up when you are wearing one instead of two pieces – they are also less bulky so you move better. Insulated boots are a must and you need two pairs of removable liners so they can dry for 24 hours between wearing. A small mesh insole provides an air gap between the liner and the bottom of the boot so the liner does not freeze solid to the bottom due to your sweat freezing. Wicking liners between your feet and heavy socks also help. Multiple pairs of gloves are also essential so that your hands don’t get wet (getting wet means hypothermia and frostbite). excellent headgear is a must, preferably something connected to the coveralls.

    When we moved to a warm southern American city, I had everybody convinced I had an electric car because they could not conceive of another reason to have a power cord dangling from the front of a car.

  16. klbjcb says:

    At 19, in the Airborne Rangers, we jumped into Alaska in January after spending a month training in the jungles in Panama – it was 50 below zero. But it was such a dry cold that it didn’t seem as bad as it sounds. The Aurora Borealis was incredible as we spent the next month in the bush. Never returned to Alaska in the 30+ years since then (or Panama, for that matter). COLD gets old very fast.

  17. bobmitchell says:

    Take a bucket of water out and throw it up in the air.

    Slow(above) is right, don’t screw around. Non-cotton long underwear is mandatory. Wet makes you dead, and the only place water comes from, at that temp, is sweat. Clothes have to breathe. The outer layer should be the only “windproof” part.

    And you don’t have to go all the way to canada for that-


  18. RW says:

    I’ve worked outside at 30 below but thankfully there was little wind and, as they say, it was a dry cold (as if it had any choice at that temperature). I’ve only experienced significantly less than that once and never want to again, not even for one second much less 300.

    Being pussy has nothing to do with it, in fact pussy is either completely irrelevant or a death wish. Jack London explains why as well as anyone.

    The trouble with him was that he was without imagination. He was quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in the significances. Fifty degrees below zero meant eighty-odd degrees of frost. Such fact impressed him as being cold and uncomfortable, and that was all. It did not lead him to meditate upon his frailty as a creature of temperature, …Fifty degrees below zero was to him just precisely fifty degrees below zero. That there should be anything more to it than that was a thought that never entered his head.

    As he turned to go on, he spat speculatively. There was a sharp, explosive crackle that startled him. He spat again. And again, in the air, before it could fall to the snow, the spittle crackled. He knew that at fifty below spittle crackled on the snow, but this spittle had crackled in the air. Undoubtedly it was colder than fifty below—how much colder he did not know. But the temperature did not matter. He was bound for the old claim …

  19. stonedwino says:

    I believe with hat and long johns you would have been ok…

  20. “…If you ever have a chance to be outside in utterly insane conditions for a mere 300 seconds, I suggest you give it a shot…”

    That’s what you Better than Most, BR..

    I can’t, even, recall, how many times I’ve heard people say, after coming back from similar (extreme)’Weather Events’, “I didn’t, even, Go Outside..”

    what a Waste..

    though, I will say that my Father did go to the University of Manitoba (in Winnipeg), after leaving the Farm-Ranch in SE Saskatchewan…many the Story was Heard, and, then, experienced, firsthand, upon, repeated, Visits (thankfully, more often, in the Summer)

    that Weather makes for a different Breed.

  21. Lariat1 says:

    As Bobmitchell says, upstate New York can get pretty brutal. Once winter sets in, I keep an extra ski bag in my truck. Dry layer clothing, facemask, extra gloves, etc. Never know if you get stranded in a snowstorm, whatever. Plus the candle, matches and empty can for warmth. Not a “prepper”, just being ready for the elements.

  22. Iamthe50percent says:

    Regarding waiting for traffic lights: It’s the MidWest. It’s OK to jaywalk.

  23. EdDunkle says:

    Great post! I love those kinds of adventures. A few years ago I tried to get to the hottest area of Death Valley on the hottest part of the hottest day of the year. It was only 122 at Furnace Creek, so it might have been 125 at Badwater, and I lasted about 15 minutes before I thought I would succumb to the astonishing heat. Highly recommended!

  24. Anton C. says:

    Garrison Keillor very succintly describes the feeling of stepping out into that kind of cold: as if you are hit hard across the face with a two-by-four board.

    I spent the first two decades of my life in North Dakota, in the 1960s and 1970s. Winters can be so cold and long there that everyone quickly learns the rules: you put on clothing until you are gingerbread-man shaped (mostly wool and cotton then – technology has made winter clothing orders of magnitude lighter and warmer over the last decades); you maintain your car rigorously (a breakdown, even temporary, can be catastrophic); you tell people when to expect your arrival, and if you slide into a ditch, don’t ever leave the car, even if you see a farmhouse just a quarter-mile away (you use the supplies that are always in the car, and await your rescuers). And only out-of-state visitors drive white cars (they are essentially invisible).

    The survival rate is higher now, with things like thinsulate garments and cell-phones, but ignoring these rules presents a very high risk of death.

    I’m chary of any predictions that the Bakken Oil Field will make North Dakota’s population and economy keep expanding for the long-term. Many people are making great money there, but it’s a very harsh and lonely (Nassau County alone has twice as many people as North Dakota) place to live.

  25. jamesrmuir says:

    Similar experience – same city – same time of year – about 30 years ago.

    I worked for an investment dealer and we subscribed to a U.S. research service that provided research and economic analysis for our retail system. Once a year the firm would send their portfolio strategist or economist up from Philadelphia to give us a presentation.

    On this occasion the chap was staying in the hotel right next to our office building. He decided that he would just run from the hotel front door to our office – and since the distance couldn’t have been more than a couple of hundred feet he didn’t bother with an overcoat. About halfway there he decided that it was a little chilly indeed and he better get his hands into his pockets. He put his cigar in his mouth and scurried forward.

    A few seconds later he arrived at the front door of our office , entered, and thought to himself – that wasn’t too bad. He went to take the cigar out of his mouth, unaware that that the wet tobacco in that short time had frozen to his lips. He promptly peeled the skip off his lips. That was a lesson he didn’t forget quickly.

  26. Bridget says:

    Soooooo, maybe global warming isn’t bad news everywhere….see any nice real estate up there, BR?

  27. czyz99 says:

    When my grandmother died in South Dakota, we went to the funeral. It was Feb. We kids were farmed out to various of my father’s cousins: my sister stayed at my cousin Miriam’s dairy farm. And she was expected to work. Up at 4 am, eat a breakfast that would normally feed 4 people, take 45 min to layer on the clothes, then on horse back out into -15F weather with a stiff wind out of the north. Round up the cows, into the barn and begin milking. Carring a pail of milk in each hand and lifting them. The most important thing is not let the teats freeze: whose they were talking about I wasn’t sure. And didn’t ask.

    My father told me the story of the coldest winter ever recorded in SD. It was during the depth of the depression and it got down to -58F. The pipes were buried 10 feet down and they froze. Ten feet of frost. There was a water shortage as the river was frozen too. The dead could not be buried, so they had to stack them up until the thaw. In the Spring they had to bury all those who passed that winter and also dig up the water pipes. I asked what was done about the cold, and my father said they cancelled school for about 2 weeks.

  28. A says:

    Barry, I recall arriving late in Winnipeg one winter’s night, and as I left the airport terminal to seek my car rental the wind caught the side of my clam shell Samsonite and without a word of a lie I was airborne. It was a short-Mary Poppins moment, but I was really tempted to try it one more time – except my privates were threatening frost bite and I really wanted to get out of the wind.

    The intersection of Portage & Main is legendary: that’s why there is a sheltered walkway. Winnipegers face a tough choice when asked if they prefer the crisp winds of winter, or the bite of the mosquitoes in summer. Needless to say, that’s why most normal people prefer Toronto or Vancouver.

    If you can find a copy of the movie called ‘My Winnipeg’, you should spend the time watching it. It is hilarious.
    I think you inadvertently starred in the sequel!


  29. Bridget says:

    I’m from Texas. 110 degrees F in the summer ain’t fun, but I’ll take it won’t kill you nearly as fast as the abominable weather you folks are describing. I had a windbreaker on today until the temp reached 75. Yes, we are total Wusses weather wise.

  30. ReductiMat says:

    Good on ya Barry!

    I grew up in that town and know intimately of what you speak and can confirm what many others here have echoed, LONG JOHNS! They make all the difference in the world.

  31. beezle says:

    Clearly you never ski in the north east. It was a balmy -23 up top today, gusts from the north west. I’m not sure why people talk about wind chills, its either cold or its not, especially if you are riding down the mountain at 40 to 50 mph what difference does the wind make?

    ps – you can actually give a pretty good guess of the temperature by the tone of the squeak the snow makes when you walk on it

  32. Biffah Bacon says:

    Wind chill kind of doesn’t count compared to air temperature. Fairbanks it used to get to minus forty for months at a time; a 3 mph wind made it worse but not much. My first winter there it went to 80 below in North Pole outside of town, where we drove for a Thanksgiving dinner. Amazingly cold. My dorm room that first year had a broken thermostat that was never fixed and I woke up to frost on my giant pile of sleeping bags and blankets even with the door open.
    My car froze so solid the university couldn’t tow it away-the grease in the wheel bearings and steering box and the oil in the transmission were solid and the tires froze to the ground. No tow truck could budge it.
    For fun we would take pots of hot coffee out in the yard where the snow was clean and throw the coffee up in the air; it came down as coffee snow that we made grad school snocones with. Cigarette breaks were very short.

    I’m glad I did it but I’m glad I finished up and moved on.

  33. seamfar says:

    I spent a lot of time in the ‘Peg during the nineties. Intense weather is the predominant impression it made on me. Beautiful summers and brutal winters.

    August of 95, it was warmer than 110F for the whole week I was there, and six months later, -25F. I remember thinking about how hardy the pioneer settlers must have been to deal with swings that extreme, and was reminded that it is human nature to take a lot for granted.

    I enjoyed your post.

  34. wally says:

    Nice column.

  35. The Window Washer says:

    Quick rule of thumb if in the first two steps into still air:
    The hair in your nose freezes -20
    Your eyebrows freeze -30
    Your eyelashes freeze -40
    Adjusting the above for wind chill is very difficult.
    It was cold where I grew up.

  36. formerlawyer says:

    Constructing an igloo, National Film Board:

    I recall a modern “reality tv show” near Winnipeg, Pioneer Quest. Two modern families go back in time to survive a whole year near Winnipeg. No outside contact, letters delayed 3 months, I believe they had livestock, pigs, one cow, domestic goods and basic tools to build a home, break the land, build furniture, beds. Too bad the DVD apparently costs $130.00
    (click on the preview)

  37. Clem Stone says:

    That was the same mindset I had when visiting Phoenix for a couple days. Wanted to experience what 112 degrees felt like. I quickly discovered that the whole “but it’s a dry heat so not too bad” thing is complete BS….I felt like I was going to shrivel up and spontaneously combust. Then I noticed that the locals were walking around like nothing was wrong.

  38. super_trooper says:

    Yup, you’re a pussy.
    As a child we used to go skiing in the scandinavian mountain range. Some mornings it was -30 to -40C. I have absolutely no idea why my parents decided that we would go skiing downhill on those cold days. We would get up the lift, and it’s FREEEZING since you aren’t moving. And once you are at the top of the mountain, the wind would make it even colder. Skiing adds additional wind, so I tried not to ski fast. I can still remember how I could barely feel my fingers and toes. I stopped skiing as a teenager. I’ve been a pussy ever since. Apparently you can buy Ski Boot Heaters now.

  39. katphiche says:

    Uffda! As we said in North Dakota, “-30 below keeps the riff-raff out!” Lived in North Dakota for 26 years, that’s why we’re comfortably ensconced in Houston, TX (where it was 73 degrees today).

  40. GeorgeBurnsWasRight says:

    When I went to school in Chicago, my parents retired to southern Arizona. Sometimes on trips home there would be a difference of over 100 degrees between when I got on the plane and when I got off it.

    If you haven’t figured it out, I was spending my winters in Chicago and my summers in Arizona.

    Then at my first job, employees took the original, made two copies, and destroyed the original.

    Nothing in the remainder of my life has ever seemed weird, for some reason.

  41. kukiniloa says:

    It gets cold out there, dontcha know!

    Seriously, it’s all about dressing appropriately.

    The coldest I recall was -37F, and I crossed-country skied in it. No wind chill, that.

    I don’t really miss Wisconsin all that much.

    High of 80 degrees today, here on the Big Island.

  42. Ponchovilla says:

    Barry: Just think of all of the benefits from your experience.
    1 Kills all of the bugs except the cock roaches in the meeting rooms.
    2. Clears your mind from Congress, the President, Larry Kudlow and so much more.
    3. You are a witness to crime reduction. Who can even start a car at those temperatures?
    4. That’s the fastest you have moved since high school
    5. You can watch your piss freeze before it hits the ground and tell all of your close friends.

  43. vavoida says:

    visited Winnipeg once during fall and was wondering why some shops are underground / tunnels …


    and that parking spots have an electrical outlet, to charge batteries

  44. blinblin says:

    Well, that’s one thing that we share in common.
    Winnipeg is by far the coldest place that I have ever visited, it was -58 degrees with the wind chill.
    Therefore I can relate to your journey and why you wrote about it.

    Also, I can’t believe the feedback…wow, an amazing number of comments and interest.

  45. hammerandtong2001 says:

    In the mid-90′s, when I traveled alot on business, one of my frequent destinations was Moscow. On one trip there, I got asked to stay over a weekend in January. And on the Saturday, I needed something to do and decided a tour of the Kremlin would fit the bill.

    In Moscow, at this time of year, the sun rises at about 9:00am and sets at 4:00pm or so. And on the day of my Kremlin tour, it was -25 to -30 F. I remember pushing through the tour and seeing some once-in-a-lifetime sights. I returned to my hotel, just off Red Square at around 3:00pm.

    It was so cold, that it hurt.


  46. mathman says:

    Oh man – GREAT stories, everyone!

    i’ve been cold to the point of numbness, but i heard a story from a long-haul logging trucker up there in the northwoods area. Said he pulled into some godforsaken logging camp at 2 in the morning. The temp. inside his rig was 75 degrees and he parked about 15 feet from the door to the yard shack which had a roaring fire going inside. He got out and walked to the door, but having taken a breath, his lungs froze up and he passed out into the arms of the guy who opened the door. Now that’s cold.

  47. InnocentRetard says:

    And to think that most of the countries that freeze in winter also happen to be the world’s most developed ones! While the beach only produces beach-bums!!

    The old saying is true after all – “Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters.”

  48. ilsm says:



    We used the term in the area around Silver Bay, Mn. Where it was colder with the windchill than ever I saw in Fairbanks.

    Do you celebrate St Urho Day in ND?

  49. Moe says:

    Several years ago my wife had a seminar in Winnie – same conditions. She set out from the hotel for a 4-block walk and about midway there she heard a loud crack – her laptop had exploded, then in a few more steps a police car pulled up and a cop walked out and grabbed her and threw her in the car – she had on a skirt! – they took her direct to the emergency room – she had mild frostbite.

  50. number2son says:

    Agree with those in the know: wearing long johns and a hat is a must in extreme cold weather.

    I went to college in Minnesota. Endured a few of -70 windchill days. We were advised to go out in groups just in case someone fell along the way to our destination. If you wore glasses, as I did and still do, the lenses will immediately ice up once you come inside to warmth. Temporary blindness results.

    Ironically, some of the coldest days I can remember were in mid November of 1989 in New York City. My son had just been born and a bitter cold and fierce winds were whipping lower Manhattan. Walking from the subway to St. Vincent’s hospital felt just as cold as anything I’d experienced in Minnesota.

    Anyway, those years in college (both the extreme cold and the lousy food) made me thankful to my grandparents for having the good sense to immigrate from Scandinavia. Tack så hemst mycket farfar och morfar!

  51. Lariat1 says:

    Night skiing a few years ago, about -9 with the windchill around-30, the trail conditions were so perfect I would force myself to “one more” run and endure the brutal chairlift ride until I went to get off the chair and my jacket had froze to the back of the chair. With a forceful pull I released and finally knew that was my last run for the night.

  52. mst says:

    aaaahhhh…..thank you for writing about your experience in the “cold.” This brought back many childhood memories. In Minnesota, when I was young, January was always the time when a “-” was in front of a number. LOL… For the past 10 years, good ole Minnesota is still shot with some cold fronts from up north (Arctic air mass crawling over the clear skys of our heaven), but not like the long continuous days and weeks…and months….during childhood which froze in my mind the experience of living in….in….in…cold. I have a large fur coat that reaches down to my knees. No one has come up to me and sprayed paint on me. This coat is old. maybe 30-40 years old. For the past few days I have been wearing this coat during chills of -40. I cannot describe to you the warmth this coat gives me. The large fur hood covers most of my face when I have a scarf wrapped around it. The only part of my body that may get cold is bottom portion of my leg….the area above the boots and below the knee line (where the fur coat hangs). My little daughter loves it when she can wiggle her self inside with me and we walk like a pair of penguins; slow and wobbly.
    One note about the blessings of a deep freeze: the cold will exterminate many of the little critters eggs we hate to see hatched during the late spring and summer. God bless the cold. LOL

  53. Freestate says:

    I initially had two thoughts:

    1) Who schedules a conference in Winnipeg in the winter?
    2) Why would people think: Great conference to attend – Winnipeg during the coldest part of the winter is just where I want to be?

    On the positive side, I suppose the experience will make you better appreciate Florida the next time you are there in the winter.

  54. mst says:

    On further reflection:

    1. Try “winter camping.” This is a phenomenal experience. One piece of advise…listen to the old timers who have done this before.

    2. It is during a deep freeze, sitting by a wood stove that is burning bright, that our hearts can begin to comprehend the wonder of dichotomies. Cold and Hot, Day and Night, Silence and non-Silence.

    3. Drinking a warm cup of coffee or tea outside in the cold is a lesson in gratitude.

    4. To see our exhaled breath in the air on a very cold day tells us this: we are alive, move forward.

    thanks again for the story.

  55. DaveWC says:

    Yeah, it’s really cold here in Winnipeg the last few weeks. But a warming trend is coming… up to -2ºC by Monday. Go figure. The nice thing about -40º is that it’s the same in Celsius and Fahrenheit. Our summers are really warm though (had to say that).

    I’ve always figured that no one but those that were born in Winnipeg are dumb enough to live in Winnipeg. But the cost of living is pretty cheap here and we get a ton of sunny days, even in the winter it’s really sunny… the sun & cold rips your eyes right out. And our summers are really warm. Who knows, global warming could set us up as the vacation destination of the future.

  56. maddog2020 says:

    spent a lot of late nights walking home from the lab in sub -20 F weather in grad school @ Wisconsin, face frozen to my jacket lining.

    But the thing I couldn’t get over living in the upper Midwest is that in the summer it could also be over 100 degrees. One year the difference between the recorded low and high was 129 degrees!

  57. thomas hudson says:


    winter camping this weekend. my son’s boy scout troop participates in the annual klondike event. we will be tent camping and hiking outdoors for about 48 hours. expected lows saturday night are 15, without the wind chill, so probably close to zero when we climb out of the tent sunday morning.

    dry clothes, layers, good equipment is a must. ‘zero’ sleeping bag, at a minimum. stay active, and don’t dwell on how cold it is. you just get acclimated eventually. eat two granola bars before getting in your sleeping bag, as the body metabolizing them will warm up your body and the bag.

    last year i made a smoked turkey white bean chili in a dutch oven on an open fire outdoors for lunch. best damn soup i ever had (at least it seemed like that at the time).

  58. Mike.R says:

    After seeing his story on PBS I always wondered how days like that were for Dick Proenneke:

  59. jirit says:

    There is a reason why we other Canadians call it “winterpeg” – where for 10 months of the year it is freezing cold and the other two months the mozzies will pick you up and carry you away

  60. AHodge says:

    There is no bad weather, only bad clothing
    Norwegian saying

    i will be my usual knowit all self, you were not dressed right Mr NYC
    you needed full windshell and insulation on your legs and head
    i was at mountain top jackson hole last week , briefly, at -30 with a 40 knot wind
    they were setting record lows
    with full windshell farmer johns n layers and TOTAL windproof headgear coverage
    in my case old windsurf neoprene helmet that just barely breathes
    shi goggles and a freddie mask, gator over it if needed, i didnt
    its fine, for at least 5 10 mins, till you build up a little body heat
    and get down the mountin ou of wind at the peak.

  61. hue says:

    I moved from Virginia where I grew up to Gary, Ind., in 91 for my first real job. My car freaked out in that first winter. A car broken in in warm weather cannot handle to cold. Two years later, I got a job in the Deep South, the car problems — unable to start — went away. In Gary, I complained about the cold, and my buddy, also a newbie and recent grad from Minnesota, said he delivered pizza in -80 wind chill in college. I’m told now that people in Minnesota don’t plug their cars in anymore.

    What is better, extreme heat or extreme cold? You can always put on more clothes. In 2001, I moved back to the East Coast from San Francisco after the Internet bubble, driving across the country heading first toward Las Vegas. We passed through The Devil’s Playground in the Mojave Desert. There was a giant thermometer there and it was 113 at 5 p.m. Must have been hotter earlier. You notice locals wearing jeans and long sleeves, to protect from the sun. We guzzled Gatorade all day and never had to pee driving through that area. There were signs into Las Vegas to turn off the AC or your car will overheat.

  62. AHodge says:

    with a snowmobile suit with layers and complete head coverage,
    which i dont have
    and you probably stand at least a half hr or more where you were
    without even much heat generating movement.

  63. WyMi says:

    Great story BR. But you rarely get damn cold in Winnipeg – it’s dry cold, so you freeze your ears and face without even feeling it (until they thaw). Damn cold is felt in N. Ont and Quebec (Timmins or Happy Valley, Nfld.) where you just can’t dress with enough clothes to keep warm – the dampness in the cold goes right through – that’s damn cold.

    Of course, you can’t blame the weather, but if you buy clothes made in China for that weather you can blame yourself.

  64. Gnatman says:

    My USAF days were spent in very cold climes –
    Duluth, where January temps would climb to zero for the high of the day,
    DEWLINE sites on Greenland where the snow would be plowed away from the sites constantly. Until the plows couldn’t keep up, and then the site had to be jacked up.
    Loved how the people of Winnipeg would order 2 beers at a time, nonsense to have down time.

  65. Slash says:

    Aw, hell no. I live in Texas. I’m fine with other people “experiencing” the cold. Cold will kill you, quickly, if you’re not dressed appropriately.

    And even I know you should wear a hat in that weather.

  66. Slash says:

    I read “To Build a Fire” very recently. You get about halfway through before you realize it’s a horror story, essentially. I never want to be in cold like that.

  67. rj chicago says:

    Come on here to Chicago and feel the cold – this year not so much – a couple of years ago – 50 below wind chills and ambient temps of -10 to -18 F for days on end.

    You guys in NY are WIMPS!!!

  68. Lugnut says:

    When I was in college in the mid 80s in central PA we had one winter that had a real bad cold snap (84?85?). Got to the point that on one particular day the State of PA declared a weather state of emergency and shut everything down (no snow mind you, it was just really cold). My college however declined and state open. I lived about 15 miles outside of town in a house up in the state gamelands on top of a very exposed hill. Radio said it was around -24 with windchill around -40. Where we were, might have been slight colder. House had electric heat, and being poor college guys we didnt use it, but there was a franklin stove downstairs that we had cranked so full of wood and so hot that the inch and a half thick iron plate at the top of the burner box started to buckle.

    Since are school was open I made an attempt to drive into town. Bundled up, and trudged out to my car. Man it was cold. I was driving an old tin can 1972 Datsun 510. I open the door and sit in the seat. Craaaack. The seat had frozen solid and me sitting on it shattered the covering of the seat. An auspicious start. Fearing the worst I turn the key, and lo and behold the car actually starts first crank! However the old gal doesnt sound too happy about it. Running real rough. I look around to the back and see that the car is belching out thick black smoke in large clouds. Not good. The oil is frozen sludge and isnt moving through the oil pump apparently. I shut it off, went back inside and commenced drinking with my roomates.

  69. pintelho says:

    and yet…people here are bitching about 10 deg above 0… BR you had me at no hat…NO HAT?! ARE YOU CRAZY!


    I have a place in the Catskills and it gets pretty damned cold. I can be out in 10 degrees in a t-shirt so long as I have a hat on.

  70. DaveWC says:

    Few people wear hats in Winnipeg. It messes up your hair.

  71. Julia Chestnut says:

    LOL, all of my nutty insane weather experiences have involved unbearable heat. I appear to be on an all swamp tour of the planet, from the places I’ve wound up living – and I hate heat. Especially wet heat.

    On the upside, my skin looks pretty good for an old bat my age. I’ve spent my life in a steam room.

  72. mrlbroker says:

    Thank you. I was reminded of the winter of 76to77 which I spent in Milwaukee. Like the comment on Chicago someone gave, I was there Charlie, only more north.

  73. woolybear1 says:

    The guy from Iowa was telling the truth. I grew up there too but, fortunately not on a farm. Brutal winters and not much better summers, no a/c back then. I still enjoy a good blizzard. Nonetheless, I have turned into a complete pussy and am spending the winter in southern Spain on the sea, paradise.

  74. boveri says:

    Some guys know how to tell a story. This was a good one!

  75. Theravadin says:

    Good one, Barry. I grew up in Saskatoon (north of Regina)… and the thing is, in Saskatoon when it is 40 below, there’s no wind. Winnipeg, on the other hand…. they don’t call it Winterpeg for nothing! Glad you survived!

  76. Theravadin says:

    Mind you I am currently in Broken Hill Australia – Over 40 Celsius yesterday, and blowing like crazy. Dehydration will kill you pretty fast too, here…

  77. lelford says:

    Yes, it might get a little cold from time to time, but I noticed there was no mention of mosquitos anywhere in your journey Barry. Sure keeps the bugs down…..:)

    Great story Barry
    If you want to read a classic story on living in the frozen north, find “TO BUILD A FIRE”.

    I will chill you to get to the “end game” of trying to survive outdoors in those kinds of temperatures.

    PS. I would love to hear what your message to the CFA folks was. We all need to hear more of your words.

    Cheers from Canada

  78. pfo says:

    Barry, out here in the UAE we can notch +50C in the summer.

    Having also spent winters in Minnesota, I always tell people that cold is worse.

    Why not come out here next August and make your own comparison?

  79. curmudgeon2000 says:

    Such experiences should give you a greater appreciation of the exploits
    of Shackleton, Scott, Amundsen, and all the other polar explorers.

    “There are strange things done in the midnight sun
    By the men who moil for gold;
    The Arctic trails have their secret tales
    That would make your blood run cold;
    The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
    But the queerest they ever did see
    Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
    I cremated Sam McGee.”

  80. Roanman says:

    I do some horse business occasionally with a guy in North Dakota very near the Canadian border who provides urine from pregnant mares to Pfizer. Some years ago we were negotiating over babies I was interested in late one winter afternoon when he said, “I don’t mean to be rude, but I have to let you go and get my mares in, I might have lost a couple ears last night.”

    Warm is better.

  81. Evalina and I relocated our research office to The Yukon in Nov 2004. Shortly thereafter it was already -47C. Before wind chill, eh. Amazing thing is the acclimatization. When temps rise to -20, I don’t mind wearing my bermuda shorts to get an armload of firewood, plug in the car or chat with a neighbour…

  82. TrueNorth says:

    hmmmm, from this story one would assume that we northerners must be dropping like flies (or at least losing vital body parts) from the extreme cold. Yet the number of people who die from heatstroke every year in the US is much, much higher (even expressed as a percentage of the population) than from cold exposure up here in Canada….The truth is, a sensible person can protect themselves from the cold far more easily than from extreme heat. And yes, that does mean wearing headgear — the top of the head is where the greatest amount of heat is lost from the entire body. This intrepid adventurer would have had a much easier time of it wearing a parka with a fur extension to break the wind.

  83. TrueNorth says:

    And another thing….yes, winnipeg has cold winters (although what’s described here would be unusual even for us), but they’re not “10 months long” as someone suggested, and our summers and warm and beautiful. Melt comes in April, leaves are out in May, sun and warmth through September, with typically an “indian summer” (warm temperatures following first frost) in October, then snow again in November. As for mosquitoes, they are really not that bad, and usually over by July.