I recently stumbled upon this glorious archived Reddit post in which Mainers offer advice on how to survive a winter in Maine. Here I have pulled some of the best nuggets and tried to organize the advice around categories so that it is a bit easier to sort through. Should you have the time, though, you really should check out the original. Also, please let me know what ideas, tricks, and insights you think should be included in the comments below.
Note: The authors of each nugget of wisdom are noted in brackets immediately after said wisdom.
ON CARS AND DRIVING
- Get good snow tires, put some weight in your trunk, like sand tubes, and keep a shovel in your car. [TheVoiceOfRiesen]
- Get a new battery for your car that’s suited for a climate like Maine. [TheVoiceOfRiesen]
- Scrapers, de-icer windshield washing fluid, shovels, snow tires, all season windshield wipers, and snow brushes are going to be your best friend this winter. You’re going to want multiple scrapers and snow brushes too. Bring one inside to keep by the front door so that if it snows overnight, you don’t have to un cover your car with your hands to get inside it to get to the brush. [Erulastiel]
- Put a small shovel in the back of the car. [hermeswings]
- And always check your coolant and anti-freeze levels. If something is wrong with either system, you’ll want to catch it ASAP. [MyNameIsBruce2]
- Snow tires (especially studded) are incredible. “All-season” or “all-weather” tires don’t even come close. You don’t know how much you will appreciate good snow tires until you have them, and it is much easier to get out and enjoy the winter when you can drive confidently. [NewtonsThird]
- Put your wipers up [so that they don’t freeze to the windshield]. [metametamind]
- Even if you get a good set of tires, driving in the snow takes practice. Go out to a big empty parking lot after a good snowfall and drive around for a while, practicing sharp turns and sudden stops. You’ll get a better feel for how your car handles differently in the snow. (Just make sure the lot doesn’t have any concrete parking bumpers or any other nasty obstacles that might be buried!) [NewtonsThird]
- Always keep a comprehensive roadside emergency kit in your car, especially if you plan on venturing out of the city. If you should get stranded somewhere in a blizzard a small snow shovel, camp stove (like a WisperLite), a warm sleeping bag, and an extra set of clothes could save your life. [rouge_oiseau]
- When driving in the snow and you feel yourself start slipping, don’t brake and let your foot off the gas. Just guide your car carefully to where you want it to go. Once you’ve got it under control, slowly press the gas. Don’t expect to stop when you push the brake either. So you’re going to want to prepare to stop way ahead of time. Slowly press the brake. You’re going to slide, but don’t panic, just take it slow and don’t force your car to do anything. If you don’t feel comfortable driving during a snowstorm, don’t go out. [Erulastiel]
- Another thing that helped me, and still does when I buy new vehicles: take your car to an empty lot on a snowy and icy morning maneuvering. Do some donuts, breaking and hitting the gas. Get to know the feel of your car in inclement weather and how it responds. A lot of accidents in bad weather, apart from stupidity is panicking. Understanding how to react is a good skill to have, but bear in mind that safe and sensible (proactive) driving is always better. [Danmolaijn]
- If you aren’t used to driving in slippery conditions, smoothness is the key– it doesn’t matter how slow you go, if you slam the breaks or goose the gas, you’re going to slide around. Start gently, brake gently, corner gently and leave room between you and the car in front of you and you’ll be fine. (You can practice this by placing a glass of water on your dashboard or other flat surface in your car– try to drive without spilling water or letting the glass fall over). [TossingCabars]
- Keep a pair of boots and gloves/mittens in your car. You’ll be glad you did! If you ever get stuck in the snow and run your engine to keep warm, make sure you keep the exhaust clear at all times. Get to know the good tow companies. KNOW the parking rules for whatever town you park in!!!!!! Snow rules are different for each town and even for different streets in some places. If you don’t have off-street parking where you live or work, make arrangements with a friend, neighbor, or nearby business to park there on snow days. Make sure you know when they’ll clear snow even after the storm or you will get towed. Keep a bottle of water and some granola bars in the car. I keep a throwaway Tracfone for these moments, the battery life is fantastic and at $10 who cares if it gets stolen. [philos34002]
- You will get your vehicle stuck in a Maine winter at least once in your lifetime, if not once a winter. Don’t feel bad; suck up your pride (at least this is my case) and call for a tow truck or a friend with a good truck to pull ya out. [hawk82]
- Oh, might be a good idea to buy some tow straps and know where on your vehicle are your towing points. [hawk82]
ON DRESSING THE PART
- If you’re planning on going out for any extended period of time (shoveling, recreation, etc), dress for it. Avoid cotton, even with thermals, because they wick the moisture and make you colder. Wool socks, fleece hats, and sweaters are your friends here. A windbreaking layer can be a light jacket and some track pants are fine if you have thermals. [lotkrotan]
- Dress in layers and stick to wool base layers and wool socks. Merino wool shirts and long underwear (i.e. the non-itchy kind) are a little more expensive but well worth it. Check out Icebreaker and Ibex and watch for promos or sales. Flannel lined jeans are nice to have too. [rouge_oiseau]
- I would highly recommend taking your time finding a pair of boots that are comfortable, warm, and easy to get on and off. [rouge_oiseau]
- Wear layers. Some days are going to be really friggin cold. Others are going to be tolerable. Others are going to be “warm.” There are many days that the weather will not be able to make up its mind. Waterproof clothing such as boots, jackets, and gloves are also going to be your best friend. Waterproof boots are really going to help you. You need a canoe to get across the parking lot in the winter and during/ after heavy rain. I’m not even exaggerating… Well maybe a little, but the water is deep enough to go up to your ankles. When it’s 10 degrees Fahrenheit outside, that water is cold. I recommend wearing a ski jacket rather than a dressy one. I find them to be warmer and they’re more water resistant. [Erulastiel]
- Also, invest in a pair of those ice cleats that you can strap on to your boots or shoes and you can run around without fear of slipping, just make sure you get the kind that fit securely onto your foot and not just around the edge or they will fall off and disappear in the snow. [rouge_oiseau]
- A couple of pairs of flannel-lined denim, a few pairs of quality wool socks, and a pair of insulated boots will do wonders! If you get a jar of sno-seal, you can easily waterproof nice boots. [wadeboogs]
- I know it’s already been said, but I can’t emphasize the importance of wearing some sort of under layer (cotton thermals are ok, synthetic thermals like polypropylene are best.)
- Maine is very windy in winter. Cover up exposed skin so the wind chill doesn’t give you frost bite. [TheVoiceOfRiesen]
ON YOUR ABODE
- If your heat / power goes out [and you have town water as opposed to well water] it’s a good idea to run a trickle (think “pencil width”) of cold water in one of your sinks. This will keep a tiny amount of water running and help keep the pipes from freezing / bursting. [Tatsukun]
- Shrink-wrap your windows, if your windowsills will allow it. Makes a huge difference. [ohtheheavywater]
- When it comes to heating your place of residence this winter, you’re going to want to keep it at 68 degrees. You’re going to think it’s cold, but it’s going to save you money when it comes to heating oil costs. It’s fairly expensive. But 68 will keep your pipes from freezing and keep you warm(ish). Keep blankets and sweaters on hand if you get cold and get acquainted with your slippers. I’d only recommend turning up if you just cannot get warm or the temperature drops below 0. If you live in an apartment, it should already be insulated and up to code for the cold states. So should most houses. Blackout curtains help keep cold out and heat in (and vice versa in the summer). Draft guards will also help you keep out the cold. [Erulastiel] [EDITOR’S NOTE: A few people have made note that 68 is pretty high for Maine standards. For example, I have my thermostats set at 65 while we’re scheduled to be home and 50 while we’re away and don’t run into any issues with freezing.]
- Keep an eye on your roof. If you notice a build up of snow then you need to clear it or have your landlord clear it (if you are renting). By midwinter there wont be a roof rake in any stores, so get one early if it is going to be your responsibility. Personally, I climb up and use a shovel, but that may not be an option depending on your situation. [fracto73]
- Be careful raking or shoveling your roof. You can easily pull shingles off your roof which isn’t a good thing to do in the winter time. [Erulastiel] [NOTE FROM A READER: If you have a crippling fear of falling off your roof you need a roof rake. Then you can develop a crippling fear of touching power lines with your roof rake.]
- If you’re in an older building, invest in some plastic wrap to put over your windows. It helps a ton to prevent drafts. For any other weatherproofing tips just ask someone at Home Depot on Stillwater. [bangorlol]
EPIC AND IN DEPTH SHOVELING ADVICE
Everyone who’s posted so far gave some pretty solid advice, this nugget I’m about to give up comes from YEARS of shoveling snow in the Northern Woods of Aroostook county with no snowblower and having a 40 year old steel shovel to do the do. Even if you live in an apartment building/complex and only have a walkway and/or one parking space to tend to, you will have to shovel snow. A little strategy (even regarding snow removal) will go a long way.
So….first off, make sure you have a decent shovel. An actual shovel, something that’s capable of scooping up 15 or 20 pounds if necessary. Press-formed steel with an ash wood or hickory wood handle would be best, aluminum isn’t really sturdy enough and plastic will crap-out by January if it gets cold enough. Now when it starts to snow….START EARLY! Waiting until the snow stops is the worst time to shovel your driveway and if you let it pile up too much you’ll wear yourself out in less than an hour. When you see about 2-4 inches on the ground, that’s when it’s best to begin. Then go out periodically (about every hour if possible) when you see another fresh 2-4 inches and clean out the same area(s) you’ve shoveled. Just don’t actually shovel the snow at first, use your shovel as a mini snowplow across the width of your driveway/walkway instead of up and down the length of it and push the snow along until you get to the edge, THEN scoop it up and toss it onto the lawn or whatever. This way you won’t strain your back and you can go all day or night without breaking a sweat. Start at your doorstep and work your way back and forth down to the street if you have your own driveway….and if you hear a plow truck drive by your house/apartment, for the love of god, go out and clear the end of your driveway. If you don’t, it’ll freeze and you’ll have trouble getting out of your drive. Especially on “slushy” days.
Granted, this method will take you hours (maybe all day or all night, in fact), but if you’re not used to this kind of weather I can make a fair guess that you just might wind-up calling out from work anyway so get to work when you see flurries. The best part of doing it this way is you won’t get easily fatigued, and if you shovel-up periodically and do a thorough job beginning to end, you won’t need to salt any pavement when your done.
ON EATING AND DRINKING YOUR WAY THROUGH A STORM
- Buy a crockpot. Winter means chili, stew, lasagna, mac and cheese, chicken pot pie, shepherds pie, etc. Wake up a little earlier than usual, put it together, turn on the crockpot, and when you get home you have dinner and plenty of leftovers. [jumbleton]
- When word comes that there is going to be 10 inches of snow or more, try to hit the liquor store early because it will be very busy. [fracto73]
- Winters in Maine require lots of antifreeze so start training your liver now. The majority of Mainers choose either Budweiser or Allen’s Coffee Brandy to prevent freeze ups. [ninjasays]
DON’T BE THE WORST: GO OUTSIDE
- Embrace the winter! It is part of what makes Maine wonderful and hiding away from the cold for 4 months is a waste. Ski, xc ski, snowshoe, get down near the water and enjoy the solitude that evaporates as the tourists and summer community arrives, enjoy good Maine beers, go to hockey games, eat a ton of hearty meals, and invest in fleece lined pants. [hermeswings]
- Also get outside– Cross Country skiing is the way to go, imo, but snowshoeing and even sledding are fun too. Go to Epic sports downtown and rent some skis to go to the Bangor City Forest for some nice x-country. Check out Hermon Mt, right near Bangor if you need to learn how to downhill ski. Get some good thermal running pants and a soft-shell and take up winter jogging. Anything to get outside so you don’t go stir-crazy!
- If you find yourself hiking or snowshoeing anywhere near groomed XC ski trails, though, stay off the groomed part, and definitely out of the tracks– those trails are groomed by skiers/for skiers and it really sucks to have good snow ruined by bootwalkers post-holing through the tracks. [TossingCabars]
DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE
- Weather: Maine TV stations [F-word redacted because in a world where crazy, stupid, and horrible things happen to people all the time, some readers are still VERY concerned about bloggers who use profanity] LOVE to try to hype storms. Every single storm will be hailed as “a major storm, up to 36 feet of snow, we’re all gunna die, TUNE IN AT 9 for MORE! Then they will drop a couple inches and the news stations will go on to the next thing you should tune in at 9 to see why we’re all gunna die. [Tatsukun]