The Champions of the Polar Vortex

For the last few weeks, the already unpleasant East Coast has been experiencing a whole new animal of gelidity – the starkly named Polar Vortex. Each day, we bundle up with our thickest jackets and our heaviest mittens and stuff our faces inside our woolen scarves for the thirty-second walk to the car. We are now shoveling out our cars on a daily basis; illy equipped from our usually cushy lives on the couch.

However, to other remote parts of this icy, cruel world, thirty degrees is the height of summer and warrants a walk in the park (or alongside the frozen pond). And I am here to remind you that no, you do not live in Antartica, but this is just a small, cold phrase of an unusually stark winter (and the end of the world). So, check out the darkest, coldest, and remote regions of the world to make you feel a little better that your job still won’t call in a damn snow day.

1. Verkhoyansk, Russia somehow maintains its roughly 1500 residents in the average-temperatured -50 degrees Fahrenheit. Not surprisingly, it was also the home of political exiles between the 1850s and early 1900s. In 1892, residents recorded a record -90 degrees Fahrenheit which still holds its first-place title today.


2. Oymyakon, Russia is yet another Russian home of about 600 very cold people, who’s kids still go to school when the thermometer hits -52 degrees Fahrenheit. Sadly enough, the village is named after a local hot spring, which can be reached by locals when cracking through the ice. Believe it or not, a tourism board also sits on duty, which promotes their town as an extreme destination for adventurous travelers.


3. Hell, Norway is fittingly named as it is frozen over for about a third of each year; from December through March.  Hell maintains its notoriety not only for its sub-artic average temperatures, but also for its clever name and attraction to tourists bored of the beach.


4. Barrow, Alaska doesn’t break freezing until June and even then, it stays barely at 40 degrees Fahrenheit before the sun sets in November and doesn’t reappear until the end of January. Probably for the best, it is only reachable by sea or air.


5. Antartica recently broke its own 30 year record by hitting -136 degrees Fahrenheit, which is colder than dry ice. The only beings that even exist there are organisms such as algae, bacteria, penguins, mites, and seals. There are no permanent human residents and even less survival resources. Feel better yet?


How To Be a Winter Wanderer

This morning, I was fully committed to getting to work. I am aware that most of the time when people tell you that a huuuuge storm is coming, it probably isn’t.

I woke up on time, took a shower, put on my carefully planned outfit, and walked outside ten minutes early so that I could warm up my car and shovel off some snow. This plan was all going accordingly until I abruptly fell off my own porch because I couldn’t see the steps under the piles of snow. Well the effort was there.

Regardless of the fact that I get to work in my pajamas today, it is imperative that travelers of all shapes and sizes, including commuters and cross-country wanderers, complete the basic necessities to make it through when there is an actual blizzard outside.


This is Norway… in September

1. What to Pack – I’m a neat freak and my car is always pretty empty, besides a few basic necessities. In your car, make sure you always have:

  • A small first-aid kit
  • Tissues
  • An extra pair of pants, shirt, underwear, socks, boots, and sweatshirt (never know where you’ll be sleeping tonight)
  • Ice scraper (duh)
  • Collapsable snow shovel (these are awesome)
  • A water bottle
  • A couple granola bars
  • Bag of kitty litter
  • Jumper cables

2. What to Clean – Trust me, I want to get out the door too. But now that I have a beautiful gem of a vehicle, I now am very strict about cleaning off all of my car before driving after a snowstorm. This means making sure there aren’t snow and ice chunks waiting to fall off the roof of your car and the headlights and taillights are cleared well. Don’t be lazy!

3. How to Drive – SLOW. Once again, I’m probably just as late as you are. However, when you lose control of your car on what looks like a clean road, you’re going to wish you had some more space between the car in front of you and yourself.

4. How to Maneuver – When people lose control of their vehicles on black ice, their first instinct is to pound on the breaks and veer the other direction. However, this is the worst thing you can do. Think about it – you have the least amount of control of your car when you’re braking. Instead, turn the wheel in the direction that your wheels are turning to regain control.

5. How to Stay Alive – If you get stuck, put on your emergency lights (even though they look dumb), park in a reasonable spot that is visible but not obstructing a busy road, and stay in your car. You may be tempted to get out and try to find help, but a cop or someone will come by eventually and you probably have a cell phone anyway. There are some crazies out there.