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Winter Survival Guide: 6 Tips for Surviving a Minnesota Winter

A Man Covered In Snow While Trying to Survive a Minnesota Winter

So, it’s official. Minnesota has been recognized as having the worst winters in the United States. That’s right; we even beat out Alaska for this dubious honor.

But snow what? Sure, Minnesotan winters are unrelentingly cold and come with an onslaught of snow—up to 170 inches in some parts of the state. But my family has lived here for generations, and I can promise it’s not all bad.

Even with the ice, wind, and subzero temperatures, winter in Minnesota can be the best time of the year—if you know how to handle it. Here are six ways you can not just survive, but make the most out of this cold-weather season.

How to Survive a Minnesota Winter

Survival Tip #1: Bundle Up

Any seasoned Minnesotan knows the value of the right winter gear—a quality winter coat, durable waterproof boots, a warm hat, a long scarf, and a pair of thick mittens or gloves. With these items, you’ll make it through most Minnesota winter days just fine. 

But, during a cold snap or a lengthy outdoor excursion, you’ll want to layer it on. According to experts, there are four primary layers to protect yourself from the harshest elements. Wearing the right layers helps prevent frostbite or a lingering chill that remains long after returning inside. 

  • Layers on legs. Sporting long underwear is one of the easiest and most important ways to keep your legs warm in even the coldest temps. If possible, your long underwear should be made of a non-absorbent, breathable material to keep your skin dry.
  • Style with synthetics. Your second layer, or mid-layer, should be composed of shirts, sweaters, and trousers made from synthetic materials that can trap air and prevent it from circulating and carrying heat away from your body.
  • Insulation is imperative. Thickness means warmth, so when operating in the extreme cold, wear an outer layer with several inches of loft, like a down jacket.
  • Stay in your shell. The most important layer, second to long underwear, is the shell layer. Windshells worn over any garment can add up to 25 degrees of warmth. And, in windy conditions, a shell layer can add up to 50 degrees of warmth (or more)!

To survive a Minnesota winter, you have to know how to bundle up. So, as you watch the thermostat hit zero (or lower), remember: add those layers, especially if you’re going to be spending time outdoors.

Survival Tip #2: Know the Snow Emergency Routes

snow route map for minnesota

Image: City of Minneapolis

Nothing’s worse than getting your car towed. That is unless it’s towed in the middle of winter, and you have to traverse icy roads and frigid temps to reclaim it. Avoid the hassle by knowing the snow emergency routes ahead of time and alternative places to park. 

A snow emergency is called when a significant amount of snow, usually about six inches, makes the roads impassable. The state and county may not call a snow emergency at the same time, so pay attention to road signs and local news sources when snow starts piling up. During a snow emergency, certain parking rules go into effect.

If you live in Minnesota, you can find information regarding snow emergency routes on your city’s website. In some cities, you can even sign up for email or text message alerts, notifying you of snow emergencies so you know when you need to move your car. You can also download the Minneapolis Snow Emergency Parking Rules app from the App Store or Google Play for real-time updates and notifications.

Survival Tip #3: Whip Out the Shovel

clean snow of your meters

To survive Minnesota winters, homeowners have to be on top of snow removal because the job literally piles up. From clearing driveways and sidewalks, to digging your car out of a drift, being comfortable with a shovel—and also a snowblower—is essential.

It’s a good idea to clear a pathway from all exits of your home—even those you don’t use on a regular basis. In the case of an emergency, an easy exit is key to getting out fast. Even if you decide to swap your shovel for a snowblower for bigger jobs, there’s one particular place that homeowners should be putting their shovels to work: around your HVAC intake. Regularly clearing snow away from your furnace vent and gas meter can help avoid CO poisoning.

Whether you need to clear a walkway or dig your car out of a drift, having a shovel on-hand is sure to save you from numerous winter-time woes.

Survival Tip #4: Stock Up Your Car

Stock up your car with winter prep

Hopefully, you survive the Minnesota winter without getting stuck inside your car. But, even the most experienced winter drivers get stranded from time to time. To avoid panic (and hypothermia), keep your car gassed up and have the following supplies available in your vehicle:

  • Durable bag to store supplies
  • A multi-tool
  • Duct-tape
  • Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats
  • Snow shovel (see Survival Tip #3)
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Window washer solvent
  • Ice scraper with brush
  • Jumper cables
  • Extra clothing (hat, gloves, scarf)
  • Blanket(s)
  • Drinking water and non-perishable snacks
  • First-aid kit
  • Mobile phone charger

This list may seem long at first, but if you’re stuck in a ditch in the middle of a Minnesota winter, you’ll be thankful you have the supplies needed to keep yourself warm, fed, and safe. And, if you’re looking for a ready-made option, choose one of these top-rated car emergency kits

Survival Tip #5: Get Outside

The best way to make it through a Minnesota winter is not just to survive but to thrive! Having frosty fun can make the long months go by faster.

If you want to stay active, try skiing, skating, or snowshoeing. To slow things down, try ice fishing or building a snowperson. You can also check out a variety of winter events around the state to help beat the winter blues.

Survival Tip #6: Monitor Your Furnace

monitor your furnace

Your furnace, of course, plays an essential role in your indoor comfort. In the midst of a cold, Minnesotan winter, it’s tempting to blast the heat in your home in an attempt to warm up your fingers and toes. But, raising the temp means a higher utility bill—and those costs can add up over a long winter. Here are a few things that can help keep your costs under control:

  • Using a programmable or WiFi thermostat gives you the flexibility to put temps on a timer. For example, you could set the heat to a comfortable 68 degrees during the day but allow the temperature to drop to 60 degrees while you’re asleep or at work. 
  • Regularly replacing your furnace filters also helps to ensure that your furnace is working at maximum efficiency. 
  • A heat pump can be used to send more heat to the rooms you spend most of your time in, like the kitchen or living room.

Rather than reacting to cold temps and high winds, take a proactive approach to winterizing your Minnesota home this season, starting with your furnace. Or, better yet, call upon a professional to provide a furnace maintenance and safety check before the winter sets in. .

Making the Most of Minnesota Winter

If you’re not from Minnesota, there’s a good chance you can’t figure out why we put up with subzero temps and five-foot piles of snow. Sure, Minnesota winters are tough, but we love them.

Over the years, we’ve learned how to make the most of deep snow, strong winds, and slick ice—of course, having the right gear and a warm house to come home to certainly makes things easier. Make sure your furnace is ready to go the distance with our furnace maintenance guide.

Winter Survival Guide: 6 Tips for Surviving a Minnesota Winter

A Man Covered In Snow While Trying to Survive a Minnesota Winter

So, it’s official. Minnesota has been recognized as having the worst winters in the United States. That’s right; we even beat out Alaska for this dubious honor.

But snow what? Sure, Minnesotan winters are unrelentingly cold and come with an onslaught of snow—up to 170 inches in some parts of the state. But my family has lived here for generations, and I can promise it’s not all bad.

Even with the ice, wind, and subzero temperatures, winter in Minnesota can be the best time of the year—if you know how to handle it. Here are six ways you can not just survive, but make the most out of this cold-weather season.

How to Survive a Minnesota Winter

Survival Tip #1: Bundle Up

Any seasoned Minnesotan knows the value of the right winter gear—a quality winter coat, durable waterproof boots, a warm hat, a long scarf, and a pair of thick mittens or gloves. With these items, you’ll make it through most Minnesota winter days just fine. 

But, during a cold snap or a lengthy outdoor excursion, you’ll want to layer it on. According to experts, there are four primary layers to protect yourself from the harshest elements. Wearing the right layers helps prevent frostbite or a lingering chill that remains long after returning inside. 

  • Layers on legs. Sporting long underwear is one of the easiest and most important ways to keep your legs warm in even the coldest temps. If possible, your long underwear should be made of a non-absorbent, breathable material to keep your skin dry.
  • Style with synthetics. Your second layer, or mid-layer, should be composed of shirts, sweaters, and trousers made from synthetic materials that can trap air and prevent it from circulating and carrying heat away from your body.
  • Insulation is imperative. Thickness means warmth, so when operating in the extreme cold, wear an outer layer with several inches of loft, like a down jacket.
  • Stay in your shell. The most important layer, second to long underwear, is the shell layer. Windshells worn over any garment can add up to 25 degrees of warmth. And, in windy conditions, a shell layer can add up to 50 degrees of warmth (or more)!

To survive a Minnesota winter, you have to know how to bundle up. So, as you watch the thermostat hit zero (or lower), remember: add those layers, especially if you’re going to be spending time outdoors.

Survival Tip #2: Know the Snow Emergency Routes

snow route map for minnesota

Image: City of Minneapolis

Nothing’s worse than getting your car towed. That is unless it’s towed in the middle of winter, and you have to traverse icy roads and frigid temps to reclaim it. Avoid the hassle by knowing the snow emergency routes ahead of time and alternative places to park. 

A snow emergency is called when a significant amount of snow, usually about six inches, makes the roads impassable. The state and county may not call a snow emergency at the same time, so pay attention to road signs and local news sources when snow starts piling up. During a snow emergency, certain parking rules go into effect.

If you live in Minnesota, you can find information regarding snow emergency routes on your city’s website. In some cities, you can even sign up for email or text message alerts, notifying you of snow emergencies so you know when you need to move your car. You can also download the Minneapolis Snow Emergency Parking Rules app from the App Store or Google Play for real-time updates and notifications.

Survival Tip #3: Whip Out the Shovel

clean snow of your meters

To survive Minnesota winters, homeowners have to be on top of snow removal because the job literally piles up. From clearing driveways and sidewalks, to digging your car out of a drift, being comfortable with a shovel—and also a snowblower—is essential.

It’s a good idea to clear a pathway from all exits of your home—even those you don’t use on a regular basis. In the case of an emergency, an easy exit is key to getting out fast. Even if you decide to swap your shovel for a snowblower for bigger jobs, there’s one particular place that homeowners should be putting their shovels to work: around your HVAC intake. Regularly clearing snow away from your furnace vent and gas meter can help avoid CO poisoning.

Whether you need to clear a walkway or dig your car out of a drift, having a shovel on-hand is sure to save you from numerous winter-time woes.

Survival Tip #4: Stock Up Your Car

Stock up your car with winter prep

Hopefully, you survive the Minnesota winter without getting stuck inside your car. But, even the most experienced winter drivers get stranded from time to time. To avoid panic (and hypothermia), keep your car gassed up and have the following supplies available in your vehicle:

  • Durable bag to store supplies
  • A multi-tool
  • Duct-tape
  • Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats
  • Snow shovel (see Survival Tip #3)
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Window washer solvent
  • Ice scraper with brush
  • Jumper cables
  • Extra clothing (hat, gloves, scarf)
  • Blanket(s)
  • Drinking water and non-perishable snacks
  • First-aid kit
  • Mobile phone charger

This list may seem long at first, but if you’re stuck in a ditch in the middle of a Minnesota winter, you’ll be thankful you have the supplies needed to keep yourself warm, fed, and safe. And, if you’re looking for a ready-made option, choose one of these top-rated car emergency kits

Survival Tip #5: Get Outside

The best way to make it through a Minnesota winter is not just to survive but to thrive! Having frosty fun can make the long months go by faster.

If you want to stay active, try skiing, skating, or snowshoeing. To slow things down, try ice fishing or building a snowperson. You can also check out a variety of winter events around the state to help beat the winter blues.

Survival Tip #6: Monitor Your Furnace

monitor your furnace

Your furnace, of course, plays an essential role in your indoor comfort. In the midst of a cold, Minnesotan winter, it’s tempting to blast the heat in your home in an attempt to warm up your fingers and toes. But, raising the temp means a higher utility bill—and those costs can add up over a long winter. Here are a few things that can help keep your costs under control:

  • Using a programmable or WiFi thermostat gives you the flexibility to put temps on a timer. For example, you could set the heat to a comfortable 68 degrees during the day but allow the temperature to drop to 60 degrees while you’re asleep or at work. 
  • Regularly replacing your furnace filters also helps to ensure that your furnace is working at maximum efficiency. 
  • A heat pump can be used to send more heat to the rooms you spend most of your time in, like the kitchen or living room.

Rather than reacting to cold temps and high winds, take a proactive approach to winterizing your Minnesota home this season, starting with your furnace. Or, better yet, call upon a professional to provide a furnace maintenance and safety check before the winter sets in. .

Making the Most of Minnesota Winter

If you’re not from Minnesota, there’s a good chance you can’t figure out why we put up with subzero temps and five-foot piles of snow. Sure, Minnesota winters are tough, but we love them.

Over the years, we’ve learned how to make the most of deep snow, strong winds, and slick ice—of course, having the right gear and a warm house to come home to certainly makes things easier. Make sure your furnace is ready to go the distance with our furnace maintenance guide.

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