Oberlin Blogs

A Guide to Surviving an Ohio Winter

January 31, 2023

Phoebe McChesney ’25

As I write this, it’s below freezing in Oberlin. I spent my Winter Term in DC where the “cold” weather was actually pretty warm. The most uncomfortable days were gray and rainy, but the temperature never got too extreme. As I’ve been making my way to and from classes in chilly Ohio, I am reminded of my homecity and the long commutes on public transportation I would make to and from school in deadly windchill and icy sludge. Winters here are more than comparable and not for the faint of heart. Should you desire to brave the cold, here are a few tips I’ve picked up from my time at Oberlin.

1. Bring lots of layers. You’ll want to entrap as much of your body heat as possible to keep yourself warm. There’s a certain kind of sneaky chill that manages to snake its way underneath coats and shirts and sticks to your skin. Even without a windchill, in a down jacket, sweatshirt, hat, and my hands stuffed into my pockets, I still find myself shivering. But, if you layer, layer, layer, you won’t!

2. Stay moisturized. Winter tends to be rough on my skin, particularly my hands that can become dry, red, and chapped. I find it helpful to have a dispenser of moisturizer on hand (no pun intended) when they start to feel weird so I don’t get to the point where they begin bleeding.

3. Have a good pair of tall, waterproof boots. Snowfall can be pretty serious here. While the winter scenery is aesthetically pleasing, like a winter wonderland transported from the center of a snowglobe, it can be a bit uncomfortable without the right gear. While it inspires me to be out and about and to feel the snowflakes falling on my nose and eyelashes (that’s a song reference), I prefer to comfortably wander around outdoors without having to worry about soaking my socks. Waterproof boots seem to do the trick. Tall boots are also helpful when it comes to preventing snow from falling into your shoes and onto your feet.

4. Protect your extremities. When your body focuses on protecting your trunk and major organs, it must sacrifice other parts that are less important. Better to lose an arm or finger to frostbite than for it to completely shut down over hypothermia. But having cold fingers and toes is far from ideal. In fact, ideally, one would want to avoid frostbite. While by no means common here, because the cold comes with risks, frostbite remains a possibility. So wear good socks (I recommend thick socks) and gloves or mittens.

5. Face coverings are seriously underrated. The wind can take a toll on your face. I’ll walk outside in winter, my face scrunched and brow furrowed to reduce the surface area exposed to the elements. Even so, I will still get back from walks looking red and flushed. Masks or face coverings, although not terribly common, are very successful in fending off the cold.

Here are five, maybe common sense, tips for you. I arrived at Oberlin a bit underprepared for the cold winters and have since learned ways to stay warm. Hopefully these helped and if you decide to visit Oberlin during a winter month, definitely bundle up!

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