My friends and I take an annual ski trip for a week at a rented cabin, and we have had a few trips where we were underprepared for severe weather conditions. I learned a lot and now know the essentials to surviving dangerously cold weather. Whether you’re going on a trip or staying home during this time, here are some ways to prepare for extreme cold conditions. 

Download weather apps with weather warnings and advice

If you plan an outdoor activity, you always want to be prepared. Download one or two weather apps that can give weather warnings and advice—I especially like the WeatherBug App. It has an Outdoor Sports Index that shows how favorable the weather is for activities on a scale of 1 to 10. The app shows hourly forecasts of barometric pressure, and it gives alerts for severe weather. I also like that it allows you to track multiple locations, so you know what’s happening at home or can look up the weather info for your next destination.

Keep an emergency supply kit

Items like sand and a flashlight have saved me a couple of times when I was stuck on the road. You wouldn’t think sand would be helpful until you need it to improve your tire traction and get your car moving.

Always have an emergency kit in your car with an extra change of clothes. These items will keep you ready for any situation: 

  • First aid kit
  • Jumper cables, a reflective vest and flares
  • Pliers, a wrench and a screwdriver
  • Ice scraper and shovel
  • Hand and foot warmers 
  • Sleeping bags or blankets 
  • A spare cellphone charger
  • Drinking water
  • Canned food and high protein food like energy bars, cereal or nuts
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Cat litter or sand
  • Personal hygiene items like towels, toothbrushes and deodorant

Keep your vehicle ready 

In addition to an emergency kit, you must ensure your car is ready for emergencies or evacuation. Check that your tire pressure, antifreeze levels and heaters are all where they should be. You should also always have at least a half-tank of gas. If you get stranded, you need that gas to turn the heater on and keep warm. I also suggest getting a windshield cover. Windshield covers protect the glass, vents and mirrors from snow and ice buildup, making it easier to make a quick getaway and don’t have time to scrape ice off the glass. 

Know the warning signs of hypothermia 

On one of the trips, we returned from morning ski sessions, and my sister noticed that someone in our friend group was acting slightly strange and speaking slurredly. She urged us to take her to the medical center to get checked out because she was presenting a symptom of hypothermia.

When we got to the medical center, they gave her warm intravenous fluids to help her blood warm up again. Had my sister not known, it may have been a different story. We had taken precautions before skiing, but a medical condition made her more susceptible. 

Be like my sister; know the signs. Some you can look out for are confusion, shivering, complaints of stiff muscles, sleepiness beyond what’s expected and difficulty speaking. 

Dress appropriately

The best way to dress is to layer lightweight clothing; the “ski uniform” (my friends and I call it) protects your body from the elements while keeping you dry. The base layer should be a thermal vest, leggings, long johns and socks. The middle layer can be a fleece top or jacket with flexible pants and the outer layer should be a raincoat or waterproof material. While gloves are more convenient for carrying things and grip, mittens provide the best protection. Ensure they are snug at the wrist and have an extended cuff to prevent moisture or cold air from seeping through. Cover your mouth with a scarf or neck gaiter to protect from cold air. 

Stay on track with your health goals 

Cold weather makes it easy to lose track of healthy goals and cozy up with cheese bakes,  warm desserts and hot cocoa with toasty marshmallows. Over time, this can lead to weight gain, especially if you’re exercising less. Keeping your physical fitness levels up in winter is essential to protect your body from viral infections. There are a few ways you can keep healthy, even with freezing temperatures outside. 

Wear a fitness tracker. Like the millions of Americans who track some aspect of their health, you can stay on top of your diet, weight and exercise with minimal effort. 

Take some time to plan some workouts you can do from the comfort of your hotel for those days when snow stands between you and the gym. Even a 10-minute YouTube home workout can help you reach your activity goals for the day. 

Make healthy comfort food. Opt for healthy soup instead of a mac-n-cheese bake when you need something warm to cozy up on a cold day. Ingredients in soups like vegetables and healthy grains keep your immune system functioning well. If you want a filling soup, look for ingredients like lentils, chickpeas and quinoa. Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids your body needs, lentils are low in sodium and saturated fat and chickpeas have the right amounts of fibre and protein. 

Stay safe and prepared 

As winter approaches, dangerous and extreme conditions will follow. Ensure you’re prepared and have everything you need, especially if you plan a trip. 


About The Author

Beth is the content manager and Managing Editor at Body+Mind. She is passionate about writing about travel, fitness, nutrition and mental health. In her spare time, Beth enjoys going for runs with her dog and trying out new recipes.

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