Winter in Canada

Student wearing warm winter gear holding a snowball in her gloved hand and smiling.

Although winter officially begins in December, snow can arrive as early as October and can last until April.

In January and February, the coldest months, the temperature typically ranges between -2°C and -10°C with an average of -6°C, but with wind it can often feel like -20°C. Winter temperatures can get as low as -30°C on the coldest days. Wind can lower the temperature considerably, this is called 'wind chill' and London receives lots of snow and ice throughout Winter.

Cloudy days are often warmer so you can't always tell how cold it is by looking out the window. We recommend checking the weather forecast each day to prepare for the conditions. The forecast will advise on common winter conditions such as:

  • Flurries (light amounts of snow)
  • Snow squalls (heavy snow and wind)
  • Freezing rain (rain that freezes while hitting the ground)
  • Sleet (rain/snow mix)

Winter Clothing Checklist:

Look for a waterproof and windproof jacket or parka.

Look for waterproof boots that have good traction for slippery conditions.

Mittens keep hands warmer than gloves because mittens keep all fingers together, while gloves separate each finger

Tips and Tricks to Staying Warm


Layering clothing is the best strategy to stay warm during freezing temperatures. Consider wearing a shirt under a sweater with your winter jacket on top. If it is particularly cold, wear two pairs of socks. The more layers you have, the warmer you will be. Allow room for air between layers of clothing. Tight clothing is not warm.


Insulation creates space for heat to be stored. Therefore, higher bulk clothing or footwear is generally more insulating than thin clothing. Wool is better than cotton, nylon, rayon or almost any other clothing fabric. There are always exceptions to the rule, but for the most part bulky equals warm.

The key when it comes to jackets with insulation is to make sure they stay dry. This means picking out a jacket that has a waterproof outer layer. Insulated boots are another way to stay warm in the winter.

Selecting a Good Winter Jacket

Key features to look for:

Water and Wind Resistance: This is important to make sure you are staying warm throughout some of the worst winter conditions. High winds will make it feel much colder than it is and snow may soak into jackets that aren't waterproof.

Hood: A well-designed hood should be adjustable so that you can get a good snug fit during cold and windy days.

Zipper: A covered zipper is preferable and will help make sure cold air stays out. The zipper should zip all the way to your chin.

Pockets: Large pockets are useful for ensuring that gloves/mitts have plenty of space on cold days.

Length: Appropriate length should be enough to cover some of your backside. You will notice that many jackets are longer in the back than in the front for this reason.

Colour: Colour is optional but a higher visibility colour such as red, light blue, or white might be useful if you plan to walk at night or in the early morning hours. Alternatively, you can look for darker coloured jackets with reflective accents (e.g. glow in the dark stripes/stitching).

Estimated cost: $100 to $300 for a mid-range jacket.

Selecting Good Winter Boots

Key features to look for:

Water Resistance: important for making sure your feet stay dry and warm throughout the day as you walk through the snow and sludge.

Height: Make sure the boot is high enough to keep water and snow from hitting your feet. Ankle high boots will not prevent snow or water from entering.

Flexibility: Boots should be flexible enough for you to move around in a normal day. You don't need something that will be stiff and limit your mobility. Find boots that will protect your feet, but will also be comfortable as you move from outdoor to indoor (e.g. while on campus).

Workmanship: Don't just assume because you are paying a high price that everything will be as it should be. Check the stitching and make sure it is finished properly with no loose threads. Look at any seams on the boot, do they seem strong or is there extra glue where there shouldn't be? Be sure to also inspect the inside of the boot for any possible problems, making sure the insoles are properly in place.

Traction: Having a good grip on the ground is important, especially for those icy days of winter. Look for deep grooves on the bottom of your boot that will prevent you from slipping and falling. Check with the salesperson and ask questions about how the boot performs in all kinds of weather for slip resistance.

Comfort: Make sure the boot is comfortable and that it fits properly. If possible, wear heavy socks to the store to make sure there is enough room and your feet don't feel pinched. Some boots offer genuine fleece sock liners for extra warmth and comfort on those bitter cold days and boots that have wool fleece lining can also keep moisture away from your feet.

Ease of Use: How easy is the boot to get on? Is it easy to remove? If there is a zipper, be sure it zips with ease. If you buy a pair of boots that are not easy to wear, they will most likely sit at the back of your closet.

Estimates Cost: $75 to $150 for a mid-range pair of boots.

Expect to Spend

$70 to $200 on waterproof boots with adequate tread

$15 to $40 on long underwear and light clothes to layer under sweaters and pants

$30 to $90 on winter accessories including mitts, gloves, hats and scarves

$100 to $800 on a high quality, water-resistant or waterproof, insulated winter coat

Of course, how much you spend will depend on the brands you select and if you choose to buy new, used, sale, or clearance items.

Money-saving ideas

  • Look for sales and use student discounts where possible. The FLIPP app is a great way to browse local flyers and compare prices. You can also visit for information about what discounts are available with the purchase of an SPC card. Some retailers also offer standard discounts for students. For example, Talize offers 10% off when you present your Western ONEcard.
  • Consider buying gently used items at consignment or thrift stores. Although these stores sell used merchandise, you can often find new clothing or never-worn items that still have tags. Online consignment stores offer a wide selection of gently used brand name clothing at great prices and many offer free shipping.
  • Think about buying second-hand from students or others in your neighbourhood. There are many “Buy & Sell” groups on Facebook where you can search for items or even make a post if you are looking for something specific. Facebook Marketplace can also be a great place to look for gently used winter apparel. We recommend meeting in a public space (like a mall or on campus) and only paying for items once you’ve had a chance to look at them in person.
  • Search for “sets” when it comes to winter accessories. It’s often more cost-effective to buy a set that includes a hat, mittens/gloves, and a scarf, than to buy these items separately.
  • Consider your length of stay when it comes to deciding on how much money you are willing to invest in winter attire. Will you be able to use it when you return home? Do you need it to last for more than one winter season in Canada? If so- you might think about investing in higher quality pieces that you can use again.

Dealing With Dryness

In cold weather, your skin dries out quickly. You can buy creams for your skin and a balm for your lips. You can buy a humidifier for your apartment, or boil some water to put steam in the air. It is important to drink a lot of water.

Adjusting to Short Days

In winter, the days are short. The sun comes up late and goes down early. Some people feel sad or depressed in winter.

It is important to get out in the sun when you can. Many Canadians love winter sports. Try skiing or skating. Play in the snow! It is important to keep active in the winter. Organize an exercise program in the gym.

Frostbite and Other Health Risks of Extreme Cold

When temperatures are very cold, or exposure is for a long period of time, skin that isn’t properly covered or protected can freeze quickly. When skin freezes, it’s called frostbite.

Frostnip occurs when the ear lobes, noses, cheeks, fingers, or toes are exposed to the cold and the top layers of skin freeze. The skin of the affected area turns white and it may feel numb. This is an early version of frostbite.

Avoid thin ice or open water in winter. If you, or someone you know, falls into cold water, make sure they get into dry clothes, find shelter, and call for medical attention.

In cold temperatures it is easier to catch hypothermia and other cold injuries if you are not hydrated. Make sure to drink lots of water and other fluids. 

Learn more about frostbite and other health risks of extreme cold, and how to protect yourself, on the Health Canada website .

Students dressed in warm gear pulling snow tubes up the hill and smiling.

Winter Activities

Your Health During the Winter

Physical Health

  • Spend time outdoors often
  • Exercise regularly
  • Wear sunscreen and sunglasses to protect yourself from sun damage
  • Get your required vitamins from a natural source (if possible)
  • Check the weather every time you leave your house and dress properly
  • Wash your hands often and do not put them near your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Get information on colds and how to help your body recover from sickness. Generally, colds take one week to full recover and the following can help you on your recovery:
    • Sleep
    • Drink plenty of liquids
    • Eat fruits and vegetables
    • If you generally go to the gym, pause until you are feeling better

Mental Health

  • Find a creative outlet
  • Keep a journal
  • Find a balance between work and play
  • Stay physically active, preferably outdoors
  • Laugh often
  • Make friends
  • Manage your time and workload wisely
  • Make use of school/community resources
  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule
Students dressed in winter gear smiling and waving with Middlesex College in the background. Lots of snow and looks very cold.