Braving the cold can be a dreadful prospect, especially in January. Though spring looms, this can be the bitterest month.
By properly adapting, though, it’s possible to enjoy, and not merely tolerate, the cold. This is especially important as more Chinese learn to appreciate winter sports in the run-up to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
I became acclimated to frigid weather early in life. I grew up in Nebraska in America’s heartland, where temperatures, particularly in January, usually dip well into the danger zone.
As children, my siblings and I would venture outdoors for long hours of play after notorious Nebraska blizzards left us waist-deep in snow. We would shovel the snow into huge mounds, pack it down, hollow it out and make snow houses big enough for seven kids. When Mom called us inside for supper, we wanted to stay outside longer in our own little world with cold white walls.
At the age of 11, I delivered newspapers during a truly nasty winter, a torturous task that took a couple of hours each day. Thus acclimated, as an adult I once ran 5 kilometers at night when it was -50°C, went ice fishing when spit would instantly freeze, and rode my bike with snow tires when the mercury plunged to around -30°C, just to get my favorite cheeseburgers.
But I had a trick or two up my sleeves.
First, a heavy coat isn’t enough. What’s beneath the coat is far more important. The key is to protect the body’s core heat by dressing in layers. The lower the temperature, the more layers you’ll need, especially when the wind is howling. In extreme cold, seven layers or more is not unusual.
The first layer — which you should tuck in to prevent wind penetration at your core — should have long sleeves and ideally consist of either neoprene (the wetsuit fabric that California surfers wear to insulate against the cold Pacific waters) or a material that wicks sweat away from the body. Then add layers as appropriate — preferably light but airtight fabrics used in modern athletic wear, so you don’t hamper mobility.
Layering protects against biting winds but also, once you venture somewhere indoors, allows you to peel off layers as needed to remain comfortable.
Second, protect your extremities. Mittens are far warmer than gloves, since the fingers share their warmth (you can also form a fist inside your gloves to keep the fingers warm). Wear long underwear or two pairs of pants as well as several pairs of socks, which means you might need a pair of shoes or boots for winter that are a half-size larger than you normally wear. And be sure to cover the ears as well as the nose and mouth, when possible.
Finally, wrap a woolen scarf around your neck before putting on your coat, which will seal in body warmth and keep the raw wind out.
Now you’re ready to hit the ice or the slopes or, if you’re really crazy, ride a bike to fetch your favorite cheeseburgers.