My Vermonter Husband’s Tips to Survive and Thrive in a Cold Winter


Freezing temperatures, snow storms, and the lack of sunlight make surviving and thriving in the coldest winter in Vermont harsh and borderline unbearable to an indoor girl like me.

If you didn’t already pick up on this, I’m not a native Vermonter. But my husband is, and with his guidance, I’ve come to see the truth about how to thrive in a cold winter.

Honestly, I was not prepared. Not prepared mentally or physically. I grew up thinking the outdoors was just where you went to get from point A to point B, not a place that was actually, you know, enjoyable. But the beauty of a miserably cold Vermont winter shines when you’re prepared.

Here are some tips and tricks I’ve picked up during four years of trying to survive and thrive in a cold winter. Vermont isn’t for the weak! These tips have helped me so much and I hope they help you, too.

Vitamin D Supplementation

Last year, I got a vitamin D lamp for my home. I used it for thirty minutes pretty much every day of that cold winter in Vermont. I have to say that it changed my mood in noticeable ways. I wasn’t so down in the dumps about winter’s dreariness and the monotony of being indoors with a little kid didn’t wear me down as much.

However, some experts believe vitamin D and sun lamps can be dangerous, due to the additional and unnecessary exposure to sunlight. Luckily, there are other ways to increase levels of vitamin D in your body during the cold winter in Vermont. Try foods like oily fish, egg yolks, fortified milk, mushrooms, or a simple vitamin D supplement available at your pharmacy.

Plan for the Season Ahead of the Season

You know when Vermonters plan for winter? Before winter arrives.

I know it sounds excessive but I’ve found it so helpful to think ahead and plan for how we’ll spend our time once we’re getting pummeled by snow. That’s when we really need to know how to thrive in the cold winter.

Making plans for my family helps the cold winter not feel so impenetrable because it gives me something to look forward to. The excitement and anticipation of any time away from my regular routine make that regular routine not feel so stale. Plus, when I return from a trip – and we often take weekend trips to see our families – it’s so nice to be home. Home always seems more inviting and cozy when we return.

A lighted carousel spins as people mill about. In the background is a large evergreen and a church steeple

Check-in with your town’s recreation department, too. What festivities do they hold for the winter season? Is there a community tree lighting or skating rink or something to honor the nature of giving for the holiday season? Another way to thrive in the cold winter is to begin volunteering either alone or with your kiddos.

It’s important to know that ski mountains offer their best deals on passes at the close of last year’s season and discounts decrease as the ski season approaches. My son is still a bit young for us to commit to spending a big chunk of time at the mountain, but getting notifications about deals and sales now helps us plan for that cost for thriving in future cold winters. Some ski mountains also offer special rates for Vermont residents.

Get the Right Gear

If there is one phrase every single Vermonter will tell you about the cold winter, it’s that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. And once you hear it, it becomes something you repeat to others. I cannot stress this enough- the right gear is a game changer. That’s true in every season (who likes to sweat in cotton!) but especially when it comes to how to survive and thrive in the cold winter. Parents, be warned. Vermont kids go outdoors in school every day, all winter, unless it is so cold that they would freeze.

Let’s go from the bottom, up.

On your feet, wear thick-soled, insulated boots. Maybe size up a half-size to wear thick socks with them. I like to wear hiking boots when I’m tramping around on cleared pathways like sidewalks or at the playground. For excursions through falling or deep snow, try boots that are thick-soled and insulated, but are designed for tramping through snow. I wear two pairs of wool socks with mine.

Base layers are your best friends now.

Get yourself a pair that you adore. Maybe you know them as long underwear. To not just survive but thrive in winter in Vermont, plan on wearing them under everything. They come in a variety of fabrics, from wool to silk, though the styles are pretty basic: they usually look like leggings and a long-sleeve tee. Sometimes a crew neck, a v-neck, or a turtleneck. I like silky base layers because they’re easier to wear under other clothes because they’re not bulky.

Then you’ve got your mid-layers. Think fleece. Stay away from cotton, even though it’s not right next to your skin. Cotton is just not that breathable and airflow is of prime importance when it’s freezing and you’re still sweating. And you will sweat.

Base layers and mid-layers are great for when it’s cold but not freezing. I wear base layers around my house like loungewear or under jumpsuits and sweatpants. That way I’m always warm and ready to get outside at a moment’s notice.

bare trees next to the snowy shore of a frozen lake

We’ve finally arrived at the most important pieces of gear you’ll own: your top layers.

A nice long and warm coat that covers as much of your legs as possible is great for going around town, but for winter sports, find a jacket that can do it all. It must keep you warm and dry. Make sure it has a snow skirt too, which is an extra piece of material on the inside of a ski jacket. It’s usually elasticized, with snaps. It prevents snow from getting up into your jacket. Make sure it’s as comfortable to wear over one layer as it is over two, or more.

Find snow pants that you like, and that you look forward to wearing. Try bibs! Bibs are pants that extend above the waist. They cover your torso and back. They’re like overalls, except warmer. Bibs add an extra layer of warmth and protection from the elements of the cold winter. My husband and I call them snoveralls. They can be hard to put on and take off, especially if you need to pee, but they’re really cute. Sometimes looking cute is worth it. And not only are you cute, but snow can’t slip down the back of your pants, which is a terrible feeling.

Ultimately, the best tip I can give about finding gear to survive and thrive in winter in Vermont is this: leave no skin exposed.

Invest in thick and warm gloves or mittens. A hat. A balaclava. Wear your jacket’s hood over your hat. Get earmuffs.

Get outside even when it’s the last thing you want ever in the whole wide world

The right gear can be expensive but I promise you it’s a worthwhile investment, especially if you spend a lot of time outside. I encourage – no, I implore – you to get the right gear. Getting outside in the fresh air can change everything about a day. That’s never more necessary than when you’re trying to survive and thrive in a cold winter in Vermont.

The sun sets over a snow drenched expanse and a dog in the foreground

My son turned eighteen months old last February. Getting both of us ready to go outside took forever. I made a promise to myself that we would stay outside at least double the amount of time it took us to get out the door.

The benefits of going outdoors are extremely well documented. It sharpens your focus and attention. Decreases stress. Regulates your circadian rhythm so you sleep better. I tend to think of the outdoors, even if it’s just our own backyard, as a “yes space.” Go climb that tree! Go run around like an airplane! Throw that ball down that slide! I intervene only when something seems dangerous, like playing too close to the street in the driveway. For children, I think the benefits of being outside are even more pronounced. Outdoor time gives them a chance to challenge themselves and find out just how much they are capable of in ways that the indoors just doesn’t allow.

Remember: winter in Vermont doesn’t last forever. But it always returns. And, there is no bad weather, only bad gear.

Tell me, what do you love about Vermont winters?


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