We’ve had some snow today and it won’t be long until temps drop more and we see even more snow. I’ve already seen one business driveway set up with markers so the snow plows know where the driveway ends and where sidewalks are. Are we already at that time of year? It seems so!

If you’ve never spent a winter in Madison, there are a few things you should know to make this time of year more comfortable and easier to get through. Or even if you’ve spent countless winters in the area, here are some tips to serve as a reminder!

1. Stay off the Roads the First Time it Snows!

People forget how to drive in the snow, so the first time there’s significant snow, we have a mess… everywhere! If you can avoid traveling, that’s the best choice. Let everyone else be in that mess.

If you are out driving, then remember to stay off your brakes as much as possible! Braking upsets the balance of your car. Drive slower and put more space between you and the car in front of you. That way, you’re braking less.

Make sure your tires are ready for winter. Go get them checked if it’s been a couple years before you got new tires. I have a set of snow tires already mounted on a set of wheels and I just change them out for winter. The way I see it, if I’m going to put 150,000 miles on tires, so why not have that be 90,000 on summer tires and 60,000 on winter tires. You’ll go through 2 sets of tires either way and at least this way, you get great tires for the winter.

Your car also needs a good battery. Batteries work extra hard in the winter and they don’t hold their charge as long. Have your battery checked.

Have an emergency kit in your car that consists of items like:

  • Bottled water
  • Extra hats and gloves – maybe a mask in case you have to get out and walk
  • Hand warmers
  • Jumper cables
  • Extra windshield wiper fluid
  • Snacks / food
  • A first aid kit
  • A blanket or sleeping bag
  • A foldable shovel – for digging yourself out of snow drifts
  • Kitty litter or sand – to put on the road to get traction

You could be stuck in your car a few hours or even overnight in the worst cases (without the car running), so make sure you have what you need to comfortably survive in that situation.

Make sure your gas tank is at least half full to prevent it from freezing and also to make sure you have enough gas in case you get stuck or even delayed on the way to work due to slow traffic.

Oh, and familiarize yourself with this classic Pizza Pit commercial!

2. Layer Up!

Learn to dress in layers so you can take off layers if you get too hot. That’s better than not being warm enough. If you’re going to be outside a long time, make sure you have a base-layer on that keeps you warm and wicks moisture away. Merino wool socks work great on your feet as they keep your feet warm and dry.

Make sure your winter jackets is waterproof. We’re talking about cold wind and wet snow, so looking your best kind of takes second place to safety and comfort. Wear a hat and gloves or mittens.

3. Boots… Enough Said

Get a good pair of boots to keep your feet nice and warm and dry. You can leave a pair of shoes at work to change into once you’re there.

4. Tell Others Where You’re Going

If the weather gets really bad, make sure people know where you’re going and that you notify them when you get there. We all need to look out for each other!

5. Walk More Gingerly

Walkway in winter

Shuffling your feet or taking smaller steps will help you get over ice on walkways. There’s even “black ice” which you can’t see too well (especially at night) and you might think it’s clear but you end up on your back (not cool). You’ll notice people doing this, so join us and walk a bit differently when you can’t clearly see dry pavement in front of you.

6. Watch Out for Snow Plows

Give the people that are trying to keep roads and sidewalks save a break and get out of their way. They’re working hard and some of them have been working all night. Give them a smile and let them pass or get where they need to go.

7. Keeping Your Car Clean

Salt and dirt on your car will eat away at it. When it’s snowing or roads are wet, your car won’t stay clean for long but there are good times to get it washed. If roads are dry and it’s warm with no snow coming, go for it.

Also, if it’s cold where the snow and ice won’t melt and it’s sunny out, roads might stay dry. You can get your car washed but make sure you get it completely dry around the doors and door locks. Most car washes here (not the self-serve ones) blow some compressed air into door locks, which helps to clear out water, which can freeze.

8. Did Someone Say, “Remote Car Starter?”

Niceties like a remote car starter, heated seats, and a heated steering wheel can really make a big difference in the cold. There are a number of shops in the area that can install these features on your car if you don’t already have these nice features/accessories.

9. Stay Off the Lakes Unless You Know What You’re Doing

The lakes here freeze over and you can walk on them but if the ice is too thin, that’s very dangerous. A good rule is to just stay off of them. If you do go out on them, don’t be the first one – see if other people are fine walking on the ice.

10. Expect Delays

Weather can cause delays. When that happens, don’t panic. It’s just what you get in this kind of climate. Accept it and move on.

11. Plan a Winter Getaway – Here or There

It’s fight or flight! You can either plan a getaway to a warm location or head up north and enjoy a cabin with a fireplace. Both are fun and can be just what you need.

12. Clear Snow on Sidewalks and Around Fire Hydrants

Check with your local municipality regarding when you need sidewalks and fire hydrants on your property cleared. In Madison, for example, you need to clear 3 feet around fire hydrants on your property and have sidewalks cleared by noon the day after snow stopped falling.

It’s Not All Bad!

This winter (2018-2019) is projected to be milder with less snow for our area. It might not be that bad!

Cross country skiing in winter

Remember to get out and enjoy the season. Snow blanketing everything is really beautiful. If you dress accordingly, being outside in the snow can be really fun. Consider winter sports like skiing / snowboarding, ice skating, cross country skiing, sledding, or even just going for a walk. This will help keep the closed-in feeling of “cabin fever” from setting in.


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