Winter’s coming! Well, maybe not yet. But we live in Canada, it’s bound to get here eventually!
Winter’s inevitable and I look forward to it with anticipation every fall. The outdoor activities, hot chocolate and the smell of wood smoke in the air. In cottage country, we have to prepare for it, expect it to be tough at times and respect mother nature for the curve balls, or snow balls, she occasionally throws. For visitors to cottage country, particularly those renting a cottage for the first time, it can be surprising how different conditions are, just an hour or so north of the city, particularly at this time of year.
Following these tips can make your winter cottage rental a trip to remember – for all the right reasons.
- Use winter tires. All-season tires are ok, but many cottage roads are hilly, narrow and winding. You will need all the traction you can get and winter tires are the way to go. Canadian Driver writer Jim Kerr comments on all-season tires, “these tires do provide traction on ice and snow if driven carefully, but these tires would be better named ‘three-season’ tires. They work well in spring, summer and fall, but don’t provide the ultimate traction and handling that a performance tire will on dry pavement nor the traction of winter specific tires on snow.”
- Keep an emergency pack in the car. Preparing for the worst is always good advice. Some cottage country roads are pretty remote, even if they are plowed. Many of our cottages are the only winterized cottages on the road so if you broke down or slid off the orad, it could be days before someone found you. Environment Canada has a list of what you should have in your emergency car kit. We rescued a couple last year who were renting one of our cottages. They drove up with all-season tires on a sedan. They came off an icy road at a bend and were truly stuck in a snow drift. They had no boots or heavy jackets with them. “We were only going to sit inside the cottage and enjoy the wood stove, or take a dip in the hot tub. We weren’t planning on spending any time outdoors,” one of them said.
- Tell people where you are going and when you expect to be there. This is one of those pieces of advice we give our kids, but often ignore as adults, but its worth the extra minute or two before you leave on a trip to cottage country to let your family or friends know your plans. Give them the contact phone numbers you have on your cottage rental information sheet, the address and phone number of the cottage you have rented, and your planned time of arrival. Phone home and let people know you have arrived safely, or if you are going to be significantly delayed.
- Plan your trip thoroughly and give yourself lots of time to get there. Snow squalls are frequent in the traditional snow belt areas and it’s not unusual to leave the city in brilliant sunshine and find blizzard conditions just an hour or so north. Make sure you have a good map with you and know where you are going. Check the weather network for severe weather updates – there is an app you can download to your phone.
- Trust the owner of your vacation home. If the owner calls you to say there is a problem accessing the cottage due to snow conditions, trust him and do not travel. These people know their cottage areas and won’t get you to curtail your trip unless there is good reason. If you do attempt the trip after being advised not to, you are taking a real risk.
Winter in cottage country can be a magical experience and it only takes a little preparation to really enjoy it.