Written by: Megan Greenspan
Edited by: Lauren Eisele-Yocum
As the weather gets colder classes aren’t the only thing we have to be consciously aware of: snow is here! Mother nature likes to add her own bit of chaos into the mix with schoolwork and other commitments. If you don’t know what to expect, what to do, or have never touched an ice scraper in your life, here are some tips from Megan, Transfer Jacks Mentor, and your Friendly Neighborhood Midwesterner, to help you stay warm, safe, and happy during the snowy season!
Traction makes a huge difference – Last winter, I cannot emphasize how many big trucks I helped push out of snow banks and parking spots due to them being too light and their tires not having any traction, causing them to just spin their wheels and dig themselves deeper into the snow. At the end of a day, if you can weigh down your car (ie. throw some sandbags in the back to help distribute weight) and get a good pair of tires on your vehicle, that will save you a lot of trouble! All-terrain tires or snow tires are good year-round options, however, they can get pretty pricey. Chains are a great alternative, but be mindful that they can do damage to your car if you keep them on 24//7. Make sure to take the chains off when it isn’t snowing and the roads are not icey. If you have the time and patience to take on/off chains periodically depending on snowfall and snow tires become too expensive, then chains are a better option! However, if you’re like me and simply do not have the time or energy, a good set of all-terrain tires will do wonders.
Invest in a good ice scraper and maybe even a snow shovel to keep in your trunk – A common issue I ran into while living on campus last year is that with heavy snowfall, as well as plows trying to clear parking lots, my car would be packed in some pretty hefty snowbanks. Most dorms have snow shovels available at the front desk, but they will get pretty popular after a big snowfall. With that in mind, having your own snow shovel accessible when needed, as well as a good ice/snow scraper is a great tool to have on-hand. (I got a SnowJoe for Christmas my junior year of high school and it has been my winter lifesaver on many occasions, so I highly recommend something like that!)
Beware of slush and Black Ice – Slush can be tempting to drive through (it can make a fun little splash), but I beg of you RESIST THE TEMPTATION. Driving through slush can and will grab your tires and make your car slip willy-nilly. Black Ice will do the same, only it isn’t visible to the driving eye. Always go at a manageable speed, and if you feel yourself slipping out and losing control, do not slam on the breaks!! Pump your brakes, stay calm, and maneuver your way through it. Slamming on the breaks or overcorrecting the steering wheel can cause you to slip and skid which will more than likely cause bigger issues in the long run!
If you don’t feel comfortable driving in snowy and icy conditions, don’t! There are so many factors regarding what goes into driving on the roads safely in snowy weather. If you are not used to it or have never driven in these conditions before, don’t let your first time be in the middle of heavy snowfall, or when you are running late to class. Give yourself enough time to get to where you need to be, and don’t be afraid to learn how to drive in snowy and icy conditions– it is an important skillset to have here in Flagstaff! Last, but not least, be completely aware of you and your vehicle’s limits, as well as the varying capabilities of other drivers around you.
Dressing Warm and Staying Cozy:
Layer up girly pop – One of the things that differs in Flagstaff and Rapid City is the cold temperatures that go hand in hand with snow. Flagstaff will get cold, however you never need to worry about negative, below zero temperatures! I was someone who thought when it snowed, I needed to bundle up like a burrito just because of how low the temperatures would reach. Since Flagstaff doesn’t have extreme cold temperatures, it’s usually fairly sunny, and you will be going in and out of buildings that may or may not overcompensate their heating. Therefore, it is always a good idea to layer up and shed when needed! Honestly, a t-shirt, hoodie, and winter jacket along with a hat and gloves are always a good baseline to go off of for the day!
A good pair of snow boots will save your life – Not only will a good pair of boots keep your toes warm and dry from the elements, but they will also help prevent icy slips and falls. NAU usually does a good job at keeping the walkways clear of ice and snow, however when you find yourself walking home from the library after a late night of studying and 6 inches of snow magically appear, there may not have been enough buffer to clear the sidewalks. They may be expensive and seemingly unimportant at first, but I promise you they will save you from a lot of hurt (literally) in the future. Peace Outfitters on Route 66 or any outdoor store should have some good options, but my go-to brands are usually Sorels, Bearpaws, or Sperrys!
It’s better to be over prepared than underprepared – In general, it is always better to dress for the worst-case scenario when it comes to cold weather. If you leave your apartment or dorm in the morning when it is 40 degrees and sunny, but when you get out of class there is a 60% chance of snow, and you know you have to walk back, bring or wear your layers, gloves, hats, boots, etc. and anything else you would need for the worse case scenario. No one wants to walk back home with their birkenstocks and gym shorts with a foot of snow on the ground.
That Time When You… Get Snowed In:
Stay Calm, Stay Alert, and Stay Prepared – This section is dedicated to worse-case scenario situations, but is important to keep in mind just in case. Leave the house with your devices charged during the day so you are able to check weather updates, NAU closures through the NAUgo app, and other happenings regarding bad weather. In cold weather, one of the most important things is keeping your body temperature up, so whether you have to keep an extra sweatshirt, gloves, hat, scarf, etc. in your backpack or your car just in case, being prepared makes a huge difference.
Have easy foods and snacks on hand – Groceries will be a hot commodity when a storm is on its way. That being said, it is important to have a couple, low energy meals throughout the season just in case a blizzard does hit, the dining halls aren’t open, or you just don’t want to leave the warmth of your dorm. Having simple sandwich supplies, ramen, mac and cheese, etc. will go a long way!
But Most Importantly:
Have fun! – Some of my most memorable moments of my first semester at NAU were seeing everyone’s reactions to the snow. I haven’t seen that many snowmen, snowball fights, or sledding since I was in elementary school. The joy and excitement the first snow brought to everyone made it more fun (especially as someone who said they would move out of the snow since they were 8 years old)! Winter in Flagstaff can feel like a hindrance at times, but release your inner 5-year-old and make that snow angel!