Winter Survival Tips
New to winter at Michigan? These tips can help you survive and even thrive in the season.
Get ready for windchill: Windchill is the "RealFeel," or the combined effect of temperature and wind, and low windchill can make frostbite or hypothermia more likely.
Frostbite involves tissue destruction, mostly in hands, feet, ears and nose, and may cause a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. Hypothermia means the core body temperature is too low, which affects thinking and movement, and can be very serious. For example, at 0° F (-18° C) with 15 mile per hour winds, the windchill is -19° F (-28° C), and frostbite is likely in only 30 minutes!
To learn current local temperature, windchill and predictions for precipitation, you can enter your zip code (48109 for campus) into Weather Underground .
Chase the chills:
- Wear layers so you can get outside and enjoy winter, then take some clothes off to avoid getting overheated inside buildings. Need winter clothes such as a warm jacket, hat, gloves, long underwear and boots? The International Center has compiled a list of Local Stores for Shopping.
- Cuddle up next to a fireplace (call ahead to see if they're fired up) at Trotter Multicultural Center (734-763-3070) or Chrysler Center on North Campus (734-615-843).
- Take a sauna -- we can thank the Finns for inventing something so thoroughly warming. The RecSports buildings on Central Campus (CCRB) and North Campus (NCRB) both have saunas, and UM students get in free.
- Escape to the tropics: →
Just minutes from central campus is the UM Matthaei Botanical GardensConservatory, where you can take off your coat and enjoy the warm, steamy air and lush vegetation for a mini-vacation, and it's free for UM students!
- Cook up some warming foods. This webpage has recipes for all sorts of yummy food and drink. Invite a friend to help make and eat the feast!
- Minimize your heating bill and your energy footprint. Keep the cold air out by insulating windows with plastic film, caulk and weatherstripping. Set your thermostat at 60° F (16° C) degrees when you're away and at night, but don't turn the heat off completely because pipes can freeze. Heat only the area you need with a portable space heater. Wear layers of clothes and pile on the blankets to stay cozy. If you are responsible for maintaining your furnace, clean or replace the air filter regularly, and make sure air vents are not blocked.
- Recreational opportunities are plentiful, both indoors and outdoors - see the International Center Recreation listing.
- Try ice skating. The following places rent skates, so it's easy to try. Yost ice arena is on campus (it's where the UM hockey team plays). Buhr Park has an outdoor skating rink. Veterans Park's rink is indoors.
- Go sledding, tubing or tobogganing. This requires no skill, and careening downhill with no brakes is exhilarating. If you go sledding in Ann Arbor, you'll need a sled, but rentals are not available. You can buy sleds at stores like Meijers. Try the Arb's Geddes Road entrance and the hills on Palmer Field in front of MoJo. Otherwise, AnnArbor.com offers a Guide to Ann Arbor's Best Sledding Hills. If you have a car, you can go tubing and tobogganing at Rolling Hills County Park in Ypsilanti Township, about 20 minutes away (rentals available).
- Try skiing or snowboarding. At ski slopes, you can take lessons. Most of Michigan's ski slopes are up north, but Mount Brighton is about 30 miles north. You can rent cross-country skiis at the UM RecSports Outdoor Adventures, at Sun and Snow (in Westgate about 3 miles west of campus) and at Rolling Hills County Park in Ypsilanti Township (about 20 minutes away by car). You also can connect with one of the Student Clubs to go on organized ski/snowboarding trips.
- UM RecSports offers Adventure Trips that can help you get moving. They organize it trips -- what could be easier? (If you're more of a do-it-yourselfer, they also rent equipment.)
- Make plans for what is optimistically called spring break, at the end of February. The Ginsberg Center offers Alternative Weekends and Alternative Spring Breaks to learn about social justice issues and work towards positive change.
- Make a a Snowperson (this video shows how, but an astronaut suit not required) or a Snow Angel (this video shows how), or or join a snowball fight.
- Start getting in shape for Dance Marathon -- it's a 24-hour fabulous fundraising event in March for children with disabilities, all organized by UM students. Or learn a new type of dance with a UM dance club, such as Ballroom, Salsa, Swing, or Tango.
Who shuts down?
- The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor rarely closes. In the event of severe weather, campus officials will attempt to keep the university open for classes and maintain regular operations because most students live on campus. Individual professors may cancel classes, and he/she will email you if a class is cancelled, so check your email before heading to class.
- If you have kids in the Ann Arbor Public Schools, you'll want to know that the district usually determines if bad weather requires school closings by 6 AM, and information is announced on major radio and television stations, and posted on the Ann Arbor Public Schools website, or you can call the school closing hotline at 734-994-8684.
Getting places in winter weather:
- Give yourself extra time to get places because busses run slower, walking is slower, yes, most things are just slower in the winter. You can fight it, or you can start earlier.
- Will you be driving? First read this brief article by former police officer Rich Kinsey on AnnArbor.com, where you can learn about black ice (a glaze that forms on surfaces, usually near the freezing point) and how to steer out of a skid.
- Have a car? Make sure it is well-prepared for winter. The International Center has a 12-point checklist for winter car care.
Check in, check up
- If you're feeling squirrely from staying indoors, try boardgames, decorating/redecorating, cleaning, organizing for the new semester, making paper snowflakes, putting up pretty holiday lights, etc.
- Some people experience winter blues or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which can be treated with light therapy. Read about SAD on the UHS website.
- This season is a great time to reconnect with friends and family, and to reflect on what makes life worth living. For millennia, people have celebrated winter as a time of slowing down, recharging, taking stock, savoring the sweetness of life and communion with others. And weren't potlucks invented just for friends to banish the cabin fever of winter?
- Too much time with roommates might lead to conflicts. If you want help sorting out conflicts, consider talking with an RA, Counseling and Psychological Services, or the Office of Student Conflict Resolution.
- Have faith: in mid-March, the first tiny flowers will bloom, welcoming spring.
Have a joyous winter, Michigan students!