Column: A West-Michigander’s guide to surviving the snow

Allison Bair, Staff writer

After weeks of unseasonal warm weather, it finally snowed – a lot. Having grown up in West Michigan, I have become a seasoned winter driver, so I’ll give you some unwarranted tips on how to survive the winter.

Winter driving is a skill. The first big snowfall is the most dreaded one for many people, myself included.

There are a few key tricks to remember for driving safely on snow and ice.

First, stop way earlier than you would in the summer (trust me on this.) Leave a larger following distance behind the car in front of you and go slow. That’ll keep you from sliding through intersections or into other drivers’ cars. It’s important to take your time when the roads are bad.

Employers and professors will usually understand that the roads are bad (or the drivers are slow) and would prefer you arriving late and safe versus putting your own life or someone else’s in danger.

If you have a small car, throw a bag of salt, sand or cat litter in your trunk to weigh it down. Adding weight to the car helps with traction, and the contents of the bag can also be spread under the tires of your car if you become stuck.

In the winter, I like to be prepared for anything. You never know if you will get stuck in a certain place because of a snowstorm. Pack a change of clothes for your car with some extra snow gear, hand warmers and snacks as well. It doesn’t have to be nice and it doesn’t even have to fit; the goal (for me personally) is to stay warm and dry in case of an emergency, like if I slide off the road.

Personally, I wouldn’t want to be standing in the cold with only a pair of tennis shoes and sweats.

This brings me to another important part of thriving through a West Michigan winter: staying warm.

Invest in a nice coat. Like a big, heavy, waterproof coat. If you can’t afford one, layering becomes your best friend. Fingers always getting cold? Mittens when you’re outside, not gloves. You can throw a hand warmer in your mittens and hold onto it that way.

Gloves help when you’re inside and can’t seem to warm up. I like those super stretchy cheap pairs. I also layer leggings under my pants, which is helpful for staying warm on your walk to class. 

I know that winter is hard mentally as well. It’s easier said than done, but remember to be kind to yourself when you’re feeling seasonal depression kicking in. Don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings because you’re definitely not alone in the winter college grind.

Focus on taking care of yourself first; and even though the road to spring is bumpy and long, the days will be getting longer before you know it.