How To

Here's the secret to surviving winter driving

Perhaps the first best thing to take you through a typical Canadian winter — which is to say, extreme and unpredictable — is the right attitude.

“The only thing worse than a winter in Canada is … well, nothing.”

That’s what Ford tells me in a commercial currently running. I’m sure it’s meant firmly tongue-in-cheek, but it makes me growl at the TV. Winter is the reason I live in Canada; I love winter.

You’re no doubt reading piece after piece right about now on how to equip your car for winter, how to adjust your driving, what to expect and what to pack in your trunk. I write them myself.

But perhaps the first best thing to take you through a typical Canadian winter — which is to say, extreme and unpredictable — is the right attitude.

You have to love winter.

More: All-season tires for all winters: Myth or reality?

More: How to drive when the snow falls

You may have to clean a lot of snow off your car. Often. You may have to do this at 5:30 in the morning. You may have to push your car out of a snow bank. If you’re truly a Canadian, you know you will have to push someone else’s car out of a snow bank — usually someone you’ve never met. You may have to drive slower. You may have to pay closer attention to weather and traffic reports. And you may have to just flat out stay home sometimes.

I’m not some sporty extreme skier. I use the roof racks on my car to pull myself up when I brush off the snow. I’ve never tossed a mountain bike up there, nor towed snowmobiles.

I prefer to fill up my washer fluid when it’s warm out, though I will do it more frequently when it’s sub-zero. I will swear under my breath when there is that little bit left in the jug that just won’t fit.

I will sigh at the grunge and salt I will get on my coat as I try to get the ice in the middle of the windshield. I will still love winter.

Because I live in a court and we are far down the list of snowplowing priority, I will have to rearrange appointments when I wake up and realize nobody is getting out. I will then go out and help push neighbours back into their driveways, and we will all wait for the plow. Winter is doing what it is supposed to do.

I will put the newest driver in our house into a winter driving course. They can only run them in the winter, and I like the idea that even their schedules are created with a shrug and a nod to the vagaries of weather fortune. I welcome such unpredictability because I am Canadian, and I love winter.

I will remember years of struggling to get to work when winter was raging, and I will remember going out into the early darkness to unearth a car for someone else. I will remember pulling into my street after a long day to find a neighbour had cleared my driveway. I will remember love notes written in the snow of my windshield, and I will be reminded of why I love winter.

Winter is cold and dark and windy. It’s also crisp and silent and gorgeous. I’ll repeatedly warn my kids to be more careful, and they’ll repeatedly pretend to listen.

I’ll do the heavier mats; I’ll do the blanket and chocolate; I’ll do the phone charger, the boots, the winter tires and the candle.

But mostly I’ll remember that watching this country as it changes colours and temperatures is a wonderful thing. In fact, it’s one of the best things about Canada.

Lorraine Sommerfeld appears Mondays in Living and Saturdays in Wheels. Reach her at

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