Never having the privilege of exploring places outside of my hometown of Los Angeles left a hunger in me to explore the unknown. Right out of high school, that unknown was the small town of Hanover. Upon my admittance I couldn’t wait to explore all the things Dartmouth had to offer. However, I was left with this deep fear of the winter. How would I survive the below freezing climates?
I’ll never forget the day I first saw snow. I was in my freshman writing course and snowflakes began to fall from the sky. It seemed as if I wasn’t the only one who had never seen snow, because the professor let us go outside and touch it. In retrospect, I laugh at how excited I was to touch the few snowflakes that fell on my hand. Once the snow stopped falling (you could barely call it snow), fear struck me. How would I survive??
I immediately bought hundred dollar snow boots, invested in heavy sweaters and socks, and bought too many pairs of thermals that are now sitting in a box in storage. After living in 3 Northeastern winters, I think it’s safe to say I know how to maneuver my way around them. I’ll now be addressing some worries I had as a tropical-climate-loving person, and how I was able to stay warm and still enjoy Hanover winters.
1) I’ve heard it gets to -20F.
The short answer is yes, and sometimes it can be colder. Currently, it’s 26F and I praised the climate gods for giving us some warmth. Coming from a city where it’s always 70-80F, I never thought I’d be happy for weather in the high 20s. I know what you’re thinking, but don’t get scared! Although it’s cold, the buildings are heated pretty well, and the only time I ever spend outside is when I’m walking to class, for food, going to the gym, or participating in certain activities that require snow. So even though it’s -20F sometimes, it’s not like you’re reading on the Green in -20F (unless you’re into that sort of thing).
2) But -20F is still cold.
Yeah, I get it. Even if you are inside 90% of the time, there’s a high chance you’ll have to leave your room for food at some point. From my experience, average winter days are usually from 0-25F, increasing in heat towards the end of the term. It’s honestly not as bad as you think. Once you’re armed with the proper gear, you rarely ever feel the effects of it.
3) What do you mean “once I’m armed?”
Well, living in this season requires preparation. You don’t expect you’ll wear a light sweater and have that keep you warm, do you? I know I was never used to the thought of layers, and they felt uncomfortable when I first began layering my clothes. Now, I can only think in terms of layers, even in the Spring when I don’t have to layer ever. Thanks, Hanover.
To be completely serious though, if you properly layer, you’ll be fine. The key is to have many layers of warm clothing you can peel off as you get hot. As I mentioned earlier, the buildings are heated pretty well, and you’ll begin to sweat once you enter a classroom. Layers for me include an undershirt as a base, a sweater on top, and then my big heavy coat. Sometimes, I even wear leggings under my jeans if I deem it necessary. It really all depends on your tolerance but I find that two to three layers of clothing is right for me.
4) Help. I was only going to pack cardigans and Vans.
Worry not! Speaking from someone who invested hundreds of dollars into unused “heavy duty” winter clothing items, I’m here to suggest affordable, reliable, and durable essential items for the fall.
You will need boots. There’s no other way around it. I personally invested in LL Bean Boots*, which, if admitted, you’ll find that lots of students own here. They’re durable (I’ve only had one pair my entire time here), and have a lifetime warranty.
Any sort of heavy duty boots will do. I know people go as far as to invest in Sorel Snow Boots which are about $125, to $25 combat boots. As long as you have a pair of water-resistant boots, you’ll be fine because the next item will keep you warm.
*I am not being sponsored to say any of this but if LL Bean wants to sponsor me I would not not let them, you know?
Wool, to be specific. If you’re anything like me I didn’t even know this was a thing. Wool socks will keep your feet warm because they lock in heat. As long as you have wool socks, you should be fine with any pair of boots.
Gloves, Hats, Scarves
Optional, but better if you have them. Really any will do as long as you have some sort of protection on your hands. Hats can be a must if your jacket doesn’t have a hood. If you still feel a little wary (I wanted to buy a ski mask my freshman year before winter) I would suggest the rather-safe-than-sorry method of buying a hat. I personally am more of a scarf person. I have dozens of scarves in my room ranging in thickness and material. I find that my thicker scarves keep my super warm when walking outside. Get some scarves, or if you’re like me, crochet and knit your own!
You only need one, really great jacket to keep you warm for the winter. Some people go as far as investing hundreds of dollars into theirs. I’ve realized it never has to be that expensive. For me, my favorite winter coat is a large down jacket. The feathers in a down jacket make sure to retain heat and is part of the reason why I feel comfortable enough wearing only 2 layers sometimes.
That’s about it. Really, I’m not joking. These are some essential items to keep you feeling nice and toasty. Toasty enough to even explore outside! The really great part of Winter at Dartmouth is the opportunity to partake in snow-filled activities. That’s honestly the best way to fully enjoy the winter. You can go ice-skating on Occom Pond, have a snowball fight between friends, or even go skiing. The possibilities are endless and you’ll find yourself wanting to participate in these activities more so than actually staying inside your room.