Surviving the “fourth season” in Spokane can take mental fortitude, especially when the sun sets well before the workday ends.
The key to surviving Spokane’s winter is to make it fun, said Mark Beattie, manager of Mountain Gear in Spokane.
Beattie grew up in Wallace and left the area before returning. Surviving the winter here takes some practice.
“In the Inland Northwest, the first thing you do is change what you wear,” he said. “Cotton clothing is fine for going to work. But get rid of it if you are going outside. Go with merino wool or a synthetic base layer to keep you dry and warm.”
Finding a hobby for the snow can turn the gloom into a season of exercise and fun, he said.
“I came back here because there are four seasons. I ski 50 or 60 days a year,” he said. “And I don’t care what the weather is. Have a hobby you are going to be dedicated to that is going to get you up and out of the house.”
All told, Beattie has 30 years experience in local winters. By contrast, Tom Dang, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, is a veteran of exactly one Spokane winter after moving here from Sacramento, California.
Despite this large difference between their number of local winters weathered, both had ideas on some of the most important things Spokane-area residents need to survive an Inland Northwest winter.
1. Car scraper. Nothing gets a day started slower than not having any way to remove snow or frost from a windshield. Car heaters on particularly cold days take too long for most cars left out in the elements. “Get a good quality scraper for your car,” Beattie said. The preferred model has a long handle for extra reach.
2. Four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicle. Local news stations camp out at the same intersections leading up and down the South Hill on those days with early snow or icy conditions to catch winter-driving drama on video. Having a vehicle with extra ability to get up slopes or plow through snowdrifts makes a huge difference. However, four tires pulling does nothing to stop vehicles on icy conditions, as the Washington State Patrol can attest.
3. All-season tires. Good tires can make the difference between a normal commute and a medical emergency. Many tire companies sell snow tires designed to grip in snowy conditions. “You don’t need studded tires,” Beattie said.
4. Alternative way to heat your home. Dang suggested locals have a log fireplace or some other way to safely heat their home in case of a power outage. Both he and Beattie agreed that drivers should also keep an emergency kit in their cars, with water and food, in case they get stranded for an extended period of time, like when the Department of Transportation shuts down Snoqualmie Pass on Interstate 90. “It doesn’t hurt to be prepared,” Dang said.
5. Wear proper clothes. Beattie suggested wool or fleece, or other synthetics, that continue to keep you warm even if they get wet. A pair of waterproof boots fall into that same must-have category.
The headlamp. With dark afternoon conditions lasting well into March, a light source that allows its user to both see and be seen in the dark becomes indispensable.
Snow shovel/snowblower. Residents with a driveway must have a way to move snow. A steel-faced snow shovel that can push snow tends to work better. For those who choose to purchase a snowblower, the self-propelled models save both time and back pain.
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