Frequently Asked Questions About Canadian Winters

Canadian winters can be pretty cold and dreary, but they can also be full of excitement and fun! It’s all about how you prepare yourself for the season. We’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions about Canadian winters to help you make the most of your winter this year.

  • What is the best clothing for winter?

    When going outside in the cold, you should wear: a hat, a scarf or face-mask, long-sleeves, mittens or gloves, warm socks, long pants, waterproof boots and a warm jacket with a hood.

  • What is layering?

    To layer clothing means to wear several items of clothing on top of one another to keep you warm. If you enter a well-heated area, you can remove layers to avoid excessive sweating, which can actually make you colder.

  • Which is better: one thick coat or several thin layers?

    Wearing several thin layers of clothing can be more effective at keeping you warm than one large coat.

  • What is a toque?

    A toque is what we call a winter hat. Some types have pompoms on the top! A lot of heat can escape through your head, so wearing a toque is a great way to keep warm outside.

  • What is a parka?

    A parka is a very warm, heavy winter coat with a hood. Sometimes there is fur or fake-fur around the hood to protect your face from the wind.

  • Why should you wear a winter hat?

    Heat escapes your body through your head. By wearing a winter hat, you trap the heat inside, allowing you to stay warm longer.

  • What is the average temperature in winter?

    The average temperature in Sydney in the winter is approximately -4.3° C

  • Where can you check the weather forecast?

    If you have a smartphone, you can use the weather app for up-to-date information. You can also visit

  • What do I do if it starts to feel too dry inside?

    If you feel like the temperature inside is too dry, try using a humidifier or placing a plant in your room.

  • What can I do about dry skin?

    Many people experience dry skin during the winter months. Try to drink extra water, regularly apply cream to your skin and keep lip balm!

  • What is the Winter Blues?

    Sometimes people don’t feel like themselves during the winter. They can feel more tired than usual, less energetic or a little sad. It may have something to do with the cold weather and having less sunlight. We call this the winter blues.

  • What can you do to keep away the Winter Blues?

    Making self-care a priority is the best way to keep the Winter Blues away. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, getting together with friends and spending some time outside. If you suspect your feelings are more serious, you should contact our counselling services at the Max Bell Health Center.

  • What is wind chill?

    The weather channel may tell you it’s -15° outside with a wind chill of -20°. This means, when you go outside it will feel like -20° even though it’s really -15°. The wind can make it feel colder outside than the actual temperature.

  • What is black ice?

    Black ice is a thin layer of ice that forms on roads and sidewalks in the cold weather. It’s so thin that you can’t see it, but it’s VERY slippery. Be careful when walking on any outdoor surfaces in the winter, take your time.

  • What is a blizzard?

    A blizzard is what we call a very strong snow storm. It often includes lots of snow and very strong winds that make it difficult to see. These storms last longer than a few hours, and it’s usually best to stay indoors during a blizzard.

  • What is blowing snow?

    You may hear a warning about blowing snow, which happens when the wind picks up the light fluffy snow making it difficult to see. When blowing snow is very bad, it can cause “white-outs” which means drivers cannot see and should stay off of the roads.

  • What is freezing rain?

    Freezing rain creates a layer of ice on trees, cars, roads and sidewalks making it very slippery outside. It can feel like a mixture of rain and ice falling, so if you’re going outside in freezing rain you should try to cover your head and protect your face with a hood or mask.

  • Are classes cancelled at CBU when it’s snowing?

    Cape Breton University takes its responsibility to its students very seriously and tries its best to remain open at all times for classes and University business. However, at times, the campus must close to ensure the well-being of our campus community. In the event of a closure, the campus community will be notified immediately through CBU Alert,, and our official Facebook and Twitter accounts. A notice will also be sent to local radio stations. You can find information about campus closures and our inclement weather policy here.

  • When would CBU close?

    Reasons for closure may include inclement (bad) weather, power outages or other unforeseen circumstances beyond our control. For more information, you can view our Inclement Weather policy here.

  • Do the busses run when it snows?

    The busses will stay on the road when it snows unless the roads become dangerous. If the busses are not running, CBU will be closed.

  • I have my own car, do I need winter tires?

    All Canadian provinces recommend that motorists have winter tires installed when the temperature drops below 7° Celsius. Winter tires are designed to grip the road better in slippery conditions.

  • Should I have an emergency kit in my car?

    It is a great idea to have an emergency kit in your car. Things to include would be: food that won’t go bad such as energy bars, water, a blanket, extra clothing and shoes, a first aid kit, a small shovel, a snow-scraper, a candle and matches and a flashlight.

  • Can you get sick from being cold?

    You cannot develop a cold or flu just from being cold, those illnesses are spread by germs. However, if you are outside for long periods of time without the proper winter clothing, you are at risk for developing hypothermia or frostbite which will make you feel sick.

  • What is frostbite and what causes it?

    Frostbite is a rare injury to the skin caused by being exposed to very cold temperatures. To keep yourself safe, make sure to protect your hands, feet, nose, ears and face when spending time outside.

  • What does frostbite look like and what do you do if you think you have it?

    Frostbite appears as a whitening of the skin, followed by redness. It may also swell or itch. If you notice these symptoms while outside, go inside and warm up as soon as possible. If your symptoms do not improve after spending some time inside, seek medical attention.

  • What is hypothermia?

    Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature drops below 35° Celsius (95° F). Symptoms can include shivering, numbness and confusion. The best way to prevent hypothermia is to dress warmly when going outside for long periods of time.