University Health Service

Woman with snow shoes lying in the snow

Cold Blast! These tips can help you survive and even thrive in the cold season.

What do you like about frigid weather?
My face gets numb
Layers, layers, layers
Winter sports
Cozy inside time
Nothing at all!

Poll Maker


Chase the chills:

You can cuddle up next to 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).

Or 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 U-M students get in free.

Try wearing layers of clothing 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.

You can escape to the tropics, just minutes from central campus, at the U-M Matthaei Botanical Gardens Conservatory, Take off your coat and enjoy the warm, steamy air and lush vegetation for a mini-vacation, and it's free for U-M students!

Or visit the U-M Health System Cardiovascular Center's indoor healing garden, where waterfalls burble among lush plants year-round. 

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.

When temperatures are very low, it's a good idea to take extra precautions. See Tips for Low Temps.

Keep moving:

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, 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 close, about 30 miles north.  You can rent cross-country skis at the U-M RecSports Outdoor Adventures, at Sun and Snow  (in Westgate shopping mall 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.

North Quad's sweet snowpersonU-M 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.  The Ginsberg Center offers Alternative Breaks to learn about social justice issues and work towards positive change.

Make a Snowperson (this video shows how, but an astronaut suit not required) or a Snow Angel  (this video shows how), or join a snowball fight. 

Start getting in shape for Dance Marathon, 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 U-M dance club, such as Ballroom, Salsa, Swing, or Tango.

Who shuts down?

U-M 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, most things are just slower in the winter. You can fight it, or you can just start earlier.

Will you be driving? First read this brief article by former police officer Rich Kinsey on , 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 winter's cabin fever?

Too much time with roommates might lead to conflicts.  If you want help with sorting out conflicts, consider talking with an Resident Assistant if you live in University Housing, or Counseling and Psychological Services, or the Office of Student Conflict Resolution.

And have faith, because the first tiny flowers will bloom in mid-March, welcoming spring.

Have a joyous winter, Michigan students!