This is the start of my second winter in Alberta. An Alberta winter is different, WAY different than a Southern Ontario winter, that is for sure. It is also a better winter, if there is such a creature. Let me explain why.
I lived in Southern Ontario for 41+ years. Winter doesn’t typically start until, well, winter time, you know, sometime after December 21 or so. It doesn’t typically get all that cold, a -10C day would be considered REALLY cold. It is a damp cold though which makes it feel much colder. In the Niagara Peninsula where I lived (St. Catharines), we were protected from a lot of the snow dumps. The winds generally came out of the West, St. Catharines was protected by the Escarpment. To the North was Lake Ontario – unless we had Northern winds, no snow there. It wasn’t too bad. The temperature fluctuates a lot. It would be -8 one day, then +5 and everything would melt and then re-freeze as the temps dropped or it would be a slushy mess for a week. We would typically get an ice storm sometime in late March, and then that would mark the arrival of Spring.
In Alberta, Southern Alberta, Calgary to be specific, Winter starts MUCH earlier. In my two years here, I would say it is around a week before Halloween. We’d get our first dump of snow and some cold temperatures. Cold, but dry – very dry. So, when it is -17C, like it is this morning, it doesn’t actually feel that bad. Mind you, there isn’t much of a wind, that is a good thing – wind chill can kill ya.
The snow tends to stay around after it falls, it doesn’t melt then freeze then melt then freeze. People are WAY better about shoveling their sidewalks here as well – after the snow stops, or sometimes while it is still falling, the shovels come out. Very nice for walking. The city even keeps the various bike paths around the city clear.
Calgary also has chinooks. Not sure what causes them but essentially it is warm winds that come from the West and warm us up in the middle of Winter. It can raise the temperature by 20 degrees in a few hours. Very nice when they arrive but I don’t think they are predictable.
The other odd difference here is how the city maintains streets during the Winter months. In St. Catharines and Niagara in general, roads, primary roads anyway, are kept pretty well clear. Here, there are plows but they don’t really come down side streets too often and then it is only to remove piled snow – they don’t clear to pavement at all. Main roads into downtown are snow covered during the commute. This can be bad because it would seem that no one in Alberta knows how to drive in Winter conditions. They don’t tend to slow down a lot, there are a lot of accidents. They tend to tailgate, this is a VERY bad habit when the roads are covered in snow and ice. Thus far, I have not been hit and I have not hit anyone – let’s keep it that way.
Winter here lasts, well, pretty much 5 months (November – March) with parts of October and April thrown in, so 6 months in total. We then have about 2 months of Spring, a month or two of Summer (with only a few days of humidity) and 2 months of Fall. Still 4 seasons, just not what I am used to. We had a day this past summer that hit 41C with the humidex – it felt exactly like a summer back in Ontario – I don’t miss those days, at all.
So, what do I prefer? Well, in all honestly, Alberta weather beats Ontario’s, hands-down. I will take colder over hotter any day of the week. But, then again, I am a bit weird.