Student Life

How to Prepare for a Chicago Winter

Isabella FalsettiChicago-born students recommended veering away from traveling on the quads after snow storms to avoid wipeouts.

With a chill in the air and the tree branches bare, winter is looming like a specter over the horizon. For many out-of-state students, this coming winter will be their first time experiencing the Chicago cold.

“I’m terrified,” Molly Halladay-Glynn, a 19-year-old first-year political science major from Orlando, Florida, said. “I’ve never experienced this before.” 

As temperatures continue to drop, preparation for colder weather can seem a bit overwhelming. From windburn to falling icicles, there are many dangers people must learn to overcome, many first-time Chicagoans are being inundated with tips on how to survive.

“It just sounds so extreme and it’s kind of hard to feel prepared when everyone’s telling you so many different things,” Colleen Kehoe, an 18-year-old first-year communication major from Atlanta, Georgia said. “I don’t want to feel underprepared.”

Ice is one hazard students from the warmer states may have never considered. Black ice — a thin layer of ice that is not only incredibly slick but practically invisible — is a constant danger to pedestrians. 

Alanna Demetrius Students layer up and brace the cold as they trek across Lake Shore Campus.

Waterproof snow boots are recommended to overcome this particular threat according to the CDC’s winter weather guidelines. Though snow boots may not always be the most stylish option, sometimes function comes before fashion. Salt is also a hazard for those without solid snow boots.

One of the boot brands most recommended by students was the Sorel. Timberlands are also a classic winter weather boot, and though the classic suede boots aren’t snow appropriate, UGGs also has several snow boot options. 

“It’s really annoying to walk through the snow in regular shoes because you get salt stains,” Connor Green, an 18-year-old first-year political science major from Chicago, said. “I know a lot of people will pack a pair of shoes so they can change out of their snow boots when they get to work or class.”

If you do find yourself with salt stains on your shoes, act fast by treating them with a mixture of one teaspoon of distilled white vinegar and a cup of water according to a shoe care expert at Instyle magazine. If home remedies aren’t your style, there are also salt stain removers available at most convenience stores.

“One tip I got was to get a plastic doormat and put it right inside your door so water and salt don’t get everywhere when you take your shoes off, which I never would have thought of,” Kehoe said.

Even with the best pair of snow boots on the market, it may be good to come to terms that eventually everyone slips and falls on the ice. One way to prevent total humiliation is to avoid the quads in the dead of winter, which are particularly icy and their open landscape makes them the perfect place for passersby to view your wipeout.

“I usually don’t run for the train or the bus because that’s the perfect way to fall,” Green said. 

Layering is a word heard over and over again by students preparing for the cold.

“Layering is the first thing people tell me and I don’t even know what that means,” Halladay-Gaynn said. 

Whether it’s wearing leggings under jeans or doubling up on socks, layering is a strategic game Midwesterners must play to survive the winter. Several thick layers including a tight knit sweater and a wind resistant coat are best for fending off the icy wind and covering every inch of skin is necessary to avoid the pain of windburn and frostbite.

Isabella Falsetti The top tips students offered to survive the winter included investing in waterproof snow boots, buying a salt stain remover and bundling up.

Brands like The North Face, Columbia and patagonia all make tight fitting underlayers designed for the cold. Fleece lined tights are also a great option for layering and are offered at a range of prices from brands like Uniqlo, UGG and L.L. Bean. 

“Make sure you’re maintaining good coverage of your body,” Green said. “I’d recommend putting your scarf over your face and make sure to have your hood up to your coat to protect from the windburn.”

Accessories like thick gloves, socks and scarves are must-haves for the season, though with gloves there are different options to consider.

Mittens are very warm but restrict motion, and gloves allow for greater dexterity but don’t have the best heat retention so they are recommended for temperatures between 20-40 degrees according to Scout Life’s gear guide. There are also waterproof gloves which are bulky but necessary when coming into contact with any form of snow. 

“Someone told me that when it gets really cold, you should wear gloves and then mittens on top, which seems like a little much,” Kehoe said.

Even if you avoid windburn or frostbite, winter is still the season of dry skin. Purchasing a good moisturizer, hand lotion and chapstick are all important for keeping your skin comfortable.

Investing in good jackets and boots from brands like Columbia, Sorell and the famous Canada Goose is the best way to avoid the nastiest effects of the cold, students said. 

Though spring might seem far off right now as we just begin the winter season, the sun will shine and the plants will bloom again. Until then, hopefully these tips will help some first-time Chicagoans make it through.

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