Fargo made it through a polar vortex (which is easily the coolest weather system name ever), but winter isn’t quite over.
Words like “wind chill”, “icy roads”, and “ground blizzards” are pretty much local babies’ first words. It’s not uncommon for temperatures to stay below zero for weeks in January.
Now, we’ve made it sound kind of scary to visit Fargo and its sister cities Moorhead and West Fargo in the winter, but this “frozen tundra” is home to over 230,000 people who still love the city and this season.
You just need the inside scoop on how to survive it. Below are 13 tips and tricks on how to get through winter.
1. Survival kits
The mantra of the north is to be prepared for everything. For that reason, locals nearly always keep survival kits in their cars. A great winter survival kit should always include:
- Jumper cables
- Flashlight and batteries
- Small snow shovel
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- Ice scraper and snow brush
- Extra gloves, hat, socks, and winter boots
- Bottled water (this will freeze, but can be melted if you get stranded)
- Tire pressure gauge (really cold temps cause tires to flatten)
- Cat litter (this can be used if you get stuck in a snowbank to help with traction)
2. Keep your gas tank full
A good rule of thumb that most locals follow is to never let your car’s gas tank go below a quarter full in the winter. Why? Gas can freeze in subzero temps. When the water droplets in your gas freeze in your tank, they can cause a clot that blocks your fuel line.
If you’ll be driving through the region during your visit, fill more than you would if it was warm out (which in the winter means 20 degrees).
Complaining about the weather is both a necessity and a great way to make friends with locals in the winter. If you’re looking for a classic phrase, try “If it wasn’t for the wind, it wouldn’t be so dang cold!” and instead of “Have a good day!” try “Stay warm out there!”
4. Use waterproof mascara
Switching to waterproof mascara in the winter is key for blustery, cold, and windy days. Nothing makes mascara run more than watery eyes from cold winter breezes or falling snowflakes that melt on your eyelashes. Waterproof varieties solve all of those problems.
5. Breathe through your mouth
When it’s really cold outside, your nostril hairs will freeze immediately if you breath through your nose. It’s not pleasant.
Try breathing through your mouth instead, or even better, through a scarf or jacket to warm up the air before it enters your lungs. It will keep you warmer and keeps you from coughing.
6. Look out for your friends
When you are the designated driver, make sure you wait until your drunk friends are safely inside their houses before you drive away. If the locks have frozen or the door is stuck, it’s just good sense to make sure they’re not exposed to the elements before you leave them (really this is a good tip for anytime of the year).
7. Always carry mittens or gloves
Buy more than one pair, in more than one color, and just keep them everywhere – in your car, by your work desk, in your purse, etc. Cold hands are not only the worst, they are also one of the first things to get frostbite if exposed to very cold air.
8. Constantly apply lotion
Winter air is dry, and your skin will show it. Fight cracked skin with lotion. Everyday, twice a day. Shaq’s orders.
9. Use floor mats for traction
This hack means you’re a pro-level northerner. If you get stuck in a ditch full of snow and neither kitty litter nor shoveling (see the ‘survival kit’ section) can get you out, it’s time to grab those floor mats.
Place them under your tires to get traction. Sometimes you may need to shovel and use your floor mats a couple times before you’re fully out… just don’t leave the mats on the ground when you drive away!
10. Stay put
If you’re ever driving and end up off the road or stuck in a blizzard, stay in your car. Don’t walk to find help! We repeat, DO NOT walk to find help. Tip number 2 is helpful here, because if you’re stuck for a long period of time you can keep your car running and stay warm.
11. Penguin walk
If you’re walking on ice, a penguin waddle will help you cross a sketchy patch of land. Keep your weight forward so that if you fall, you can catch yourself. If you feel foolish, don’t worry, everyone else is waddling too (and you’ll look even more foolish if you fall!).
12. Allow for time to layer up
Winter is all about layers. T-shirt, long sleeve, sweatshirt, coat, hat, gloves, socks, etc. Because it tends to be warmer inside than out, it takes time to prepare for the cold before you leave a building. Give yourself 3-5 extra minutes to get anywhere to account for the time it takes to layer up!
13. Prep your car as you leave it
Once you reach a destination, make sure to turn your heat back to high and turn on your defrost setting before leaving the car. That way, if you start your car from afar, it will begin defrosting before you get in, reducing the time you need to a) scrape thick layers of ice off your windshield, and b) sit shivering in a cold car.
We love winter here in Fargo, but we never underestimate how much prep time goes into it. Hopefully these tips will help you enjoy your stay.
Like any good local, though, we had to end with a funny complaint about how long winter sometimes feels. Enjoy (and see you soon?)!