Ice, Ice, Baby: A New Englander's Guide to Winter With Ease

Snow, check. Sleet, check. New England winter survival tips, check. Ready to shovel? Well...

Published December 4, 2023
Winter in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston

There's nothing like a New England winter. Beautiful, cold, whimsical, and frightfully exciting. Winter in New England could be October to April, or December to March ... aside from consulting the Farmer's Almanac for a peek into the future, there's no way of knowing when the shoveling will start or when it'll actually stop.

I've spent my life in New England, and I'm here to help you first-timers and offer some new tips to the seasoned residents. So grab your flannels and hunker down. 

How to Survive Your First New England Winter

Surviving winter in New England is incredibly dependent on where you are since the area is vast and varied. New England covers Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The weather in New Haven, Connecticut can be incredibly different from the weather in Portland, Maine. 

Winter in New England

Tackling your first winter will look a little different depending on whether you're in Boston or the White Mountains of New Hampshire. However, the basic successful winter survivial tips are similiar. 

Get Your Winter Gear Before the First Cold Day

That first cold day creeps up way before anyone expects it or the meteorologist even predicts it. And there's nothing more humbling than heading to the store bundled up with everything in your closet to go and grab a warm jacket and all the winter accessories — including boots!

Have an Extra Scarf or Pair of Gloves

If you thought your earbuds or socks had their own legs to wander off, wait until you go to reach for your gloves or scarf. Keep your good pair for the coldest days someplace you'll never lose them, and your everyday gloves and scarf somewhere you can always find them — and their backups. 

Quick Tip

Don't put away your sunglasses: the snow is bright and blinding. They're a must even in winter. 

Layer, Layer, Layer

When you pick out a winter jacket, don't pick one that doesn't fit over a sweater or a sweatshirt. Layers are the key to staying cozy and warm when winter hits. We're talking a T-shirt or long sleeve shirt with a sweater, AND a jacket on those days and nights when the windchill is sinfully cold. 

Don't Keep Your Shovel Where You'd Need to Shovel It Out

Your car, shed, or garage that's not connected to your building isn't the place to store your shovel. Although, it would behoove you to keep a second shovel in your car should you need to dig yourself out anywhere.

Why should you keep your snow shovel inside? Otherwise, you'll be shoveling with your gloves, plastic bowls, or brooms to make a path or uncover the door to your shovel. By the time you get to the shovel, well, your disposition may not be as sunny.

Your Commute Will Look Different

However you get to work, be it car, bus, train, plane, or walking, budget in lots of extra time when there's a major snowtorm. Once things wind down, it doesn't hurt to budget in the extra time to grab all your layers before heading out.

If you own a car, keep your snowbrush and ice scraper somewhere you can easily find when you need it. And when you go to shovel out your car, remember to actually bring your keys with you.

I can count on one hand how many times I've forgotten (just once!) but my car was parked blocks away and down a hill, so trudging back to my apartment to get my keys had me in a fit. After the storm, make sure your exhaust pipe is totally clear, then start your car and let it run for a little bit so the battery doesn't die. 

Pay Attention to City Snow Alerts

Cities like Boston are no joke when it comes to towing cars from emergency routes or main streets when it snows. Not only do you now need to track down where they towed your car, but you need to get there, and you need to pay to get it back. 

Snow alerts in New England

Be ahead of the game, and if you know there's a good chance that a snow emergency might be declared and you'll need to move your car, move it as soon as you can. Having that first pick of a good spot or a spot close to your home is a gamechanger. 

Tips & Tricks for Getting Through Winter in New England

From the seasoned winterer to those entering just their second or third year, brush up and brush off your snow-know-how. The difference between a good winter and an "Is it spring yet?" can be in your preparation for the season. 

Have a Power Outage Plan

Power outages can be a hit or miss, but it doesn't hurt to have a plan for if you lose power. Having to track down where your flashlights are and how your generator works (as well as where you should and shouldn't run it — outside, the answer is always outside, never inside) aren't things you want to review when you're cold or in the dark.

Know Your French Toast List

Many cities have their own unofficial official weather account that gives you the information you actually need. For Boston, it's Universal Hub's French Toast Alert System. Why French toast? Because to make French toast you need bread, milk, and eggs, and leading up to a snowstorm, those items are the ones raided the most. Are most people making French toast? No, but it's a great way to measure the strength of the storm. 

Hop over to your local community Facebook groups or Reddit forums to find your own unofficial official weather news. For winter storms in across New England, my absolute favorite year after year is New England Weather Guy

All Storms Are a Little Different

Each storm is a little bit different. The six inches of snow you got in early February won't be the same as the other twelve storms with six inches. But always try and clear the snow when it melts because you don't want to find your things covered in half an inch of ice. Ice is nice when it's from the jewelry store, but not when you need to get to the grocery store. 

Heart Attack Snow Is No Joke

The heavy snow that's brutal on the body and mind to shovel and move has a nickname as "heart attack snow." Take breaks, work in teams, or tackle the snow in shifts across a few days.

Use a smaller shovel so you aren't pick up as much and take the time to warm up a little bit like you would when you hit the gym. Shoveling this snow is an unforgiving workout and puts Crossfit and Peloton instructors to shame. 

Take It One Snowfall at a Time

I lived in Boston during the Snowstorm Apocalypse of 2015. Boston ended up with 110.6 inches of snow (a little over 9 feet). That is correct: 9 feet of snow. I had to dig my car out after every single snowstorm, and since it was also on the side of the road it was also buried under any of the snow the plow tossed onto it.

Snowfall in New England

All I could see of my car was the mirror after one of the storms. And it was rough. But I had some headphones and water, and took my time shoveling it out, or at least shoveling it out enough to be able to get in and out. There was so much snow that the last snow farm didn't fully melt until July

Quick Tip

Be a good neighbor: if you get piles of snow into the street or the sidewalk, clear them away.  

Don't Take That Open Parking Spot — Maybe

Some New England cities use space savers. Whether your city allows this or not, and whatever your opinion is or not, if you find an odd object such as a folding chair, a lamp, or even a cooler, you might want to just leave it. It can be frustrating not to find a spot, but people tend to get a little guarded about the parking space they carved out for themselves.

Odds are, if space savers are a major issue in your city, there's a good chance that this will be addressed in any weather news broadcast and updates. Yes, this is a very real thing

Things to Do During the Winter in New England

If you're in a house or an apartment during the long winter days, time can crawl by, and cabin fever starts to become all too real. Keeping busy and staying optimistic can do quite a big of leg work for helping to pass the time. 

Tackle Your TBR List

That pile of unread books you have? Crack 'em open and get reading. Make some coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or pour yourself some wine, then get snuggly with a blanket and read away. It's also a great way to catch up with friends, meet up for dinner, swap some books, and continue to ignore the weather outside of your window. 

Explore Snowy Areas

Go for a walk! Bundled up, of course. There's nothing like a fresh blanket of snow to completely transform the usual scenery that you know so well. Beware of falling snow from trees! It's hard to shake the cold when you have snow down your back. 

Snowy Areas in New England

Indulge In Your Couch Potato Side

You know when you feel guilty wasting those nice summer days just sitting on the couch, watching movie after movie or episode after episode of a show? Welcome to the Winter Excuse. Snowing? Watch a movie. Too cold to feel your nose outside? Time to catch up on some pop culture. 

Keep Busy

Laying around and taking it easy is a great way to spend winter, but keeping busy so you don't slowly start climbing the walls with boredom is imporant to mental health. Keep hitting the gym, hanging out with friends, or find a club or community that piques your interest. You don't want to be emerge as a troll or golbin from your den in the spring.

Throw a Party

You don't need a reason or a theme to have some friends over to hang out. Call it a party, a friend dinner, or a movie night. But what's most important is you make it comfy, cozy, and warm. Think soups, hot beverages, and perhaps even a bring-your-own-blanket. 

The Winter Wonderland That Is New England

The first snow of the year that accumulates is dreamy. After that, they get a little less dreamy depending on how often you need to head out of the house and take care of the shoveling. But armed with these tips, probably take a screenshot so they're always ready to go, and you'll be a master of the New England winter by the end of the season. 

Ice, Ice, Baby: A New Englander's Guide to Winter With Ease