Living in the cold: a playful guide

This season is a time where patience helps. Most of year, we can assume weather – nature – won’t interfere much with what we want to do. Winter is different. But if we take a little time, and adapt a little bit, I think most of the inconvenience goes away. And in that spirit, I offer reflections on my experiences of / taxonomy of 6 different types of cold


Moments when I am prepared for the cold: when I have all the layers on, when I’m not missing an item (scarf, perhaps)… it is impressive how easy it is to handle the cold. Really, unless there is a strong wind, I do not find days in the 20s, or even 10s, to leave me cold. Particularly if one keeps walking, warming oneself up by that. It may seem intimidating, but when I am prepared, it is not bad at all.


Stepping out into the cold: And I often get excited for it, jumping up, clapping my hands, as I step outside. I may feel a little sting from briskness in the air, but I am happy to be out exploring, taking a break, wandering to see what the landscape has to offer that day…


Moments when I am not prepared, including getting out as I drive: That said, the other side of this is that it makes a BIG difference if I am short a layer, or missing something. One naturalist told me that the children who visit tend to be properly dressed – it’s the adults who don’t always wear enough… So be ready for the weather! It is not much of a sacrifice to make, and I wonder how much frustration at the cold stems more from not adapting a little to it than from the cold itself.

This can happen to me too. When I am not psyched up, when I am driving around and get a little chilled in the car, and then I need to walk to a store… those are moments when the cold can feel like more of a burden.

 But this is part of why I think we need to positively engage winter. If we too often just encounter winter through these passing moments, when the wind bites through a thin layer of clothing, when we are busy doing other things and the snow or cold seems to slow us down or discomfort us – then we divorce ourselves from our place. We set aside part of what has been part of the human experience, and part of the role we can play as citizens of our area. So don’t let these be the impressions that shape your reactions to winter. Take the initiative to prepare yourself and enjoy it!


Mild winter Most of what we have had this year. Sometimes so mild that I dress only for Fall, and end up a little chilly 😉 Easy enough to walk around in, little ice to slip on since it is above freezing. Face does not really get cold. No reason not to continue in most of the year-round activities we can enjoy (except perhaps those that require bare hands).


 Deep winter I’ll think back to past winters… when the temperature went near zero, or below it. These are the days when you really need to be bundled, protected against wind, and not exposing your skin. When the air feels stiff and dry, and your nostrils notice the difference. This is a challenge, and I don’t expect everyone will feel comfortable taking it on. But it is also an adventure…


 Lambeau Field cold I am often struck by the fact that while one might see few people wandering around in parks during winter, one can see tens of thousands standing around tailgating, including eating outside, and then sitting around in the stadium, waiting for chances to cheer! What makes Packer home games such a special experience – arguably, the biggest winter celebrations in the state? I am not alone in going ahead and bundling up for these events, not caring about style (well, other than covering myself with a layer of green and gold), eyes carefully open outside to see what I might find to enjoy… how can we take that special attitude we apply to Packer games, and realize it more often during winter? Something to think about…

About MilwaukeeSnow

Dr. Jeffrey Filipiak, Milwaukee's Ambassador of Snow, loves winter, Milwaukee, and environmental history! He has taught college courses on topics including history, writing, environmental ethics, food studies, the Great Lakes, and sustainability. You can contact him at
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1 Response to Living in the cold: a playful guide

  1. For an analysis of cold in more thoughtful ways – including more on extreme cold, and the history of our understanding of and manipulation of cold – you might check out Bill Streever’s Cold – see my review at:

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