Winter is Coming–Embrace It

Minnesota Winter: You’re probably intimately familiar with it. The Weather Channel, the MySpace of weather, noted earlier this year that the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area has the coldest average winter temperature of any large metropolitan area in the country. And you complained! And your friends and your coworkers and your neighbors complained, because if it weren’t for weather, no one in Minnesota would ever talk to anyone about anything ever.

But have you ever gotten the sense that it’s mostly just marketing? Like have you ever gotten the feeling that we all like summer because summer sells terrible domestic beer and January timeshares in Boca Raton? Lately, I’ve gotten that feeling. Even with our long-ish winter this year–winter’s not that really that bad.

The funny thing is that the opposite of Minnesota Winter is Sun Belt Summer. The first time I moved to Minnesota, it was from Pensacola, Florida. You know what’s considerably worse than shoveling a sidewalk in Minnesota in January? Mowing a lawn in Pensacola in July. Six months after you’re complaining about how cold it is, someone in Houston is complaining about how hot it is. Secret: No one in Florida goes outside from May to September.* People shuttle themselves betwixt air conditioned environments in an air conditioned vehicle on eight lane roads. People in Minnesota do, in fact, go outside quite a bit in the winter, and they should go out more.

When Gil Penaløsa was in town a few months ago, one of the main points he made was that it seems like a bad idea to plan our city around the 15 days of winter that are admittedly pretty bad at the expense of the 200 days when things are pretty great. It’s possible that there are more than 15 of those bad days, but not really that many more than 15, and some years, there are fewer. Either way, we managed to build an entire one story building covering the second floor of both of our downtowns because we’re scared of those couple weeks of relative discomfort.

A couple weeks ago, I was at the corner of 4th Street South and 2nd Avenue South, and a couple from Chicago asked, quite innocently, “Where are all the stores around here? Don’t you have any stores?” My friend and I had to direct them up into the skyway. It was kind of embarrassing. Minneapolis Skyway System is a hot topic on streets.mn, and you will find many opinions here. A very realistic one, maybe, would aim to compromise, and admit that the skyways aren’t going anywhere, but advocate for banning the construction of new retail space in the skyways. My general feeling is that people who are regularly in and around Downtown Minneapolis are very much in favor of the skyways. But they obviously and objectively suck the life out of our streets and confuse tourists from Chicago.

So we need get people out on to the streets in the winter. We need to figure out a way to use winter as an amenity all around the city, building on the good stuff we already have and adding more. The public firepits in renderings of the new Nicollet Mile (see page 44) are brilliant. We need more of those. And we need more winter-specific events. The St. Paul Winter Carnival is good, though we certainly need a bigger ice palace. The Yard in Minneapolis needs to be designed with winter in mind–outdoor ice rink, aforementioned firepits, etc. The planned winter marketplace at Peavey Plaza in Minneapolis is a very good idea, and a very good start. The glühwein shall flow freely. That’s the kind of unique (i.e. Fogo de Chao, not Olive Garden) thing that will actually get people into Downtown Minneapolis. Also, we should do some ridiculous hipster ironic ice fishing event on Lake Calhoun. I have an ice auger we can use.

Doable

Doable

We don’t have to be ashamed about winter. We can roll with it. Harbin, China, one of Minneapolis’ sister cities, has set up a whole identity around their frigid winters, and theirs are worse than ours. But most importantly, we all need to stop complaining about it. It’ll be here in a few months.

Note: People obviously go outside in Florida during the summer. However, my brother got married in Tallahassee, Florida over Memorial Day weekend this year, and I was definitely the attendee from the farthest north, and was wearing a tuxedo, and I didn’t even break the into the AP Top 25 People Complaining About How Hot It Was At That Wedding rankings.

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22 Responses to Winter is Coming–Embrace It

  1. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke August 6, 2014 at 10:10 am #

    I agree with you of course. But I still think you’re a horrible person for making me cross this bridge prematurely. I don’t start to think about / dread the end of summer until the state fair begins.

    • Matt Brillhart August 6, 2014 at 10:25 am #

      Seconded. This could have waited at least until mid-September. Cherishing summer and dreading winter are probably mostly separate feelings, at least for me. How dare you, Nick.

    • Froggie August 6, 2014 at 7:46 pm #

      When State Fair *ENDS* is the more appropriate time…

  2. Mike Sonn
    mikesonn August 6, 2014 at 10:37 am #

    Winter:

    -waiting 10 min for your car to warm up, then driving 5 min in a still cold car only to have it warm up when you are done looking for parking

    or

    -just walking 10 min to the store and having your body heat warm you up in 2 min and enjoying the peaceful quiet great outdoors and getting some exercise so you don’t have to dread “bikini season” as much as last year.

    Also, agree with Bill and Matt, shame on you for talking about winter already. 🙂

  3. Nick Morison August 6, 2014 at 11:15 am #

    There is a classic Twilight Zone episode called “Kick the Can” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kick_the_Can_(The_Twilight_Zone) ) in which the key to eternal youth is revealed to be simply never starting to act old and continuing in the ways of youth. In that vein, I think Minneapolis summer would last indefinitely if no one ever talked about winter and worried (or embraced!) its coming. This post just ruined that for everyone for yet another year.

    • Nick Magrino
      Nick Magrino August 6, 2014 at 6:11 pm #

      I’m willing to take personal responsibility for this winter.

  4. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell August 6, 2014 at 11:42 am #

    Nick, ignore the wimpy yankees above, great post and good timing. I lived in Tampa, Birmingham, Atlanta, and Nashville. There’s a reason I stayed in Minnesota.

    Many days this past winter it was the frozen footprint surface of our MUPs that kept me from riding, not cold or snow. I think there were maybe 20 days that weather alone would have been a factor. The previous two winters I think I could have ridden every day.

    Now I think I’ll go home and wax my skis. 🙂

  5. ron August 6, 2014 at 11:44 am #

    The fact that you need to find the most oppressively hot and humid cites in the country to try to make a favorable comparison should be an alarm. Further, pick one of these cities in the Humid Belt and ask them what they prefer. Freezing cold or hot and humid and almost to a person they’d take the heat.
    Plus it’s hot and humid in the summers in Minnesota, too. It’s basically a swamp that freezes over for 6 months a year.

    • Matty Lang
      Matty Lang August 6, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

      It’s been hot and humid a total of 1 day this year in Minnesota. It’s been excellent, but to each their own.

      • Ron August 6, 2014 at 6:00 pm #

        It’s indefensible. June was a washout and July was mosquito heaven. Won’t you think of the children!

    • Nick Magrino
      Nick Magrino August 6, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

      They’d prefer it because of the summer industrial complex! And even if I did ask them, I wouldn’t be able to hear them over the noise of their A/C 🙁

  6. Matty Lang
    Matty Lang August 6, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    May I suggest a completely unironic fixie ice bike race on Lake Calhoun. We should also consider using the channel and Lake of the Isles as part of the course.

  7. BB August 6, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

    You can simply look at how other city embrace inclument weather.
    Seattle/Portland are good examples.

    Aside from Southern CA. What city has perfect weather?

    Have you ever gone outside after a snow fall or cold spell? Its almost completely void of people. I perfer to have the whole park to myself.

    • Nick Magrino
      Nick Magrino August 6, 2014 at 6:15 pm #

      Southern California = Earthquakes = Nope

      I love the city right after a snowfall! All the noise is muffled and your vision is hazy and the ground is crunchy. Good stuff.

      Also, no bugs.

  8. Casey August 6, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

    Reasons not to embrace winter:
    Waiting over 30 min for a bus that never comes because it has been rerouted because there is too much snow but there are no notices.
    Walking on non shoveled sidewalks or super icy ones.
    Having to arrange all errands based on temp/precipitation.

    Lived in FL myself, had no issue biking the 6 miles to work in July/August. I would love more skyways in other areas, not just downtown.

    • Nick Magrino
      Nick Magrino August 6, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

      1) and 2) seem solvable! 3) could use more information–were you trying to pick oranges?

      • Casey August 7, 2014 at 10:16 am #

        Solvable how? 1-Perhaps I could have walked 6 miles to a different route? 2-cleats? 3-As a pedestrian, when you need to go to a store that is not on a bus route you must plan on what you can carry, if items could be damaged by getting wet, and when there is a -45 windchill it makes a difference. But I suppose you would just get in your car and drive.

        • Mike Sonn
          mikesonn August 11, 2014 at 9:11 am #

          1) increased frequency
          2) lazy jerks can shovel their sidewalks
          3) how often are you carrying such specific things? Probably never.

  9. Rusty August 6, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

    Funny. I was speaking with a couple from Chicago on the Empire Builder as we were preparing to deboard. They heard we were pulling into Union Depot and said “Oh, they have one of those here?” We then when up the escalator and their jaws dropped when they saw the interior of SPUD.

    I can’t say I find the skyways embarassing. Most people from out of town think they are pretty spiffy. But in general, the couple you mention in the article is perhaps more intune than you think: people just don’t view downtown Minneapolis as a shopping mecca. Ripping down the skyways will not change that fact.

  10. Keith August 6, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

    I take exception to the use of the word ‘worse’ in the final paragraph of this post; a better choice might have been ‘severe’ because there is nothing inherently bad about cold and snow. People create problems for themselves by not dressing properly for the cold. Then they’ll hate snow because their car won’t go. Those are just the results of lousy lifestyle choices, though.

  11. Keith Morris August 6, 2014 at 7:08 pm #

    Problem is, MPLS is not built to handle winter in the city: so many places I go to when it’s warm are pretty much off limits for a good while. Taking a joyride to a far corner of the city or over to St Paul just ain’t happening. What also ain’t happening is me waiting 30 minutes if I’m lucky for many bus routes (those turn into hour waits in bad winter weather). I’m with Casey on that one and solvable it may be, but it really doesn’t matter when they just won’t. They’ve even had years to solve this issue with no hint of ever changing it . That hi-frequency map is a sad, sparse system that barely covers enough of the cities and severely limits one’s mobility during the coldest months (mid-December-mid-February) and has been unchanged for who knows how long: looks the same as when I moved here almost 3 years ago.

    And then the sidewalks: all it takes is one owner not to clear their portion of the sidewalk to make things unpleasant and there are plenty that do. Then you have those ice mountains to climb to reach beg buttons in the winter. Many streets are made too narrow to bike on even if they aren’t totally covered with snow and/or ice. And then the stones on Nicollet Mall are always polished smooth just to guarantee at least numerous near falls if you opt out of the skyways when the slightest coating of snow turns it into an ice rink. And how about those huge icy ponds at several intersections where even the fastest running start will never leave you not having soaked your shoes and socks through and through. Embrace this? Ehh, while only half-serious a friend and myself have talked about moving to Portland every now and then, aka Minneapolis without winter.

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