My love-hate winter affair

By Penny Caldwell »Penny Caldwell

November 4th, 2011


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Impressions of a winter morning: bright sun; blue sky; air so cold that lungs hurt; fingers and toes MIA; decision to get on the next city bus that passes by, even if it’s the one that takes a frozen student back home rather than to high school.

My earliest memory of “hating” winter? That might be it. The best part of the non-summer season always was returning to somewhere warm: après-ski, après-hockey, après-winter!

Fast-forward 30 years (or so). My sister, the ski instructor, wants me to come for a weekend on the hills. Does she not know that I hibernate during the months after we close the cottage? That I live for signs of spring or some other assurance that I’ll again be able to venture outside without having to bulk up in my husband’s parka—on top of my own coat—just to take the dog down the road for his evening pee?

“There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing,” Sis says. “We’ll dress you up so you won’t be cold.” I give in and, surprisingly, by the time she finishes layering me up, I can still move. I feel warm enough to venture outside and even to the top of a windy ski hill. We stay out for hours, and when we do go back inside, it’s only because we are happily tired and hungry. She’s right: Not one of us is cold.

Revelation #2: When you are warm enough to stop staring miserably down at your frozen feet, you discover the winter landscape is beautiful. There may be some truth in those holiday greeting cards that show happy people frolicking around bright scenes of fresh snowfall. From the top of a ski hill, for example, you can see the brilliant white landscape unfolding for miles around. When you are warm enough, it doesn’t matter that the dock is hauled and the lake is frozen. The sunshine still blasts away the hard edges of a workweek, and you can’t help but smile.

I know I’m not the only one who has a love-hate relationship with winter, and so, this issue, we decided to investigate the clothes that make the cottage man—and woman—happier about the off-season. We wanted to find out: What the heck is all that technical mumbo-jumbo on the labels? Can we still wear our favourite old woollies? Do we have to buy different clothes for every activity? Can we afford to be warm? Find out what we discovered in “Best in Snow.” The story and fun start on p. 56 of Cottage Life’s Winter 2011 issue. For even more fun, take a peek behind-the-scenes on the shoot. You’ll see sr. associate editor Liann Bobechko, editorial assistant Jenna Wootton, art director Kim Zagar,  stylist Catherine Doherty, and our two “professional” models who were roped in to help: Jodi Brooks, a.k.a. production manager of Cottage Life, and Matthew Pioro, managing editor of Canadian Home Workshop. They’re all hard at work. Really.

*   *   *

Since our cottage is closed during the winter, DH and I live vicariously through the winter lives of other cottagers—which 
is how I learned about an activity that’s much like gunkholing on cruising boats. In summer, sailors nose their boats into out-of-the-way channels and anchorages. In winter, cottagers drive their snowmobiles through a wonderland of interconnected trails and, when they’re ready to stop, they park their machines outside small inns and lodges that remain open for these off-season adventurers. Except, for sledders, winter is on-season.

Last winter, Cottage Life rode with a few hardy cottagers on a daylong tour. 
At the end of it, the snowmobilers didn’t wind up at a resort, but back at a cottage for a potluck party—tired and happy (and, by the way, warm!). They had a blast, as did our writer Margaret Webb and photographer Gary Davidson. “Sled Heads” starts on p. 46. of the Winter issue.

A passion for sledding is one reason to visit the Fall Cottage Life Show, part 
of the Great Outdoors & DIY Weekend, November 25–27, at the International Centre in Toronto. The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs will be on hand to provide information about trail permits, snowmobile designs, and buying a new or used machine, as well as tips for enjoying snowmobiling from the cottage or from a B&B or resort. Plus, Santa is coming to the show this year—by snowmobile!—and, of course, all the Cottage Life staff will be there too. Drop by the Cottage Life Booth in Hall 3. We’d love to meet you. You can also follow us on Twitter #GODIY.

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Penny Caldwell