Yes, it’s all true.
Yes, in the country known internationally as a frozen wasteland, us Lotuslanders have zero idea how to cope with white stuff, double-entendres notwithstanding.
And yes, oh how Canada loves to make fun of Vancouver for not being able to deal with snow on what has become the annual Snowcouver is a National Laughing Stock Day. It’s absolutely high-larry-ous. Oh, look at those stupid Vancouverites! How incompetent! How gauche! What total hosers! Haw. Haw. Haw.
It is ridiculous.
And the stereotypes are true.
Yes, Vancouverites don’t know how to dress—I’ve seen at least five men wearing shorts and boots in this weather. (A former coworker who moved here from Manitoba said he finds it so much warmer here compared to there that he wears shorts here all year round, even when it snows. Go figure.)
Yes, public transit doesn't really know how to deal with the situation either.
And neither do our pets.
But could there be a reason why Vancouver residents are so challenged in dealing with wintry wonderlands?
Well, since you didn’t ask, here are a few things to consider.
Of course, there is one form of weather that Raincouverites are experts at dealing with (and complaining about ad nauseam).
In fact, like Vitamin D–deprived vampires, we even complain when it’s sunny out, making tired jokes like “Oh hey, what’s that bright sphere up in the—” zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Sorry, fell asleep on the keyboard.
Okay, so on the rare occasion that Raincouver transitions into its frigid identity of Snowcouver, a more apt and informative moniker would actually be Slushcouver.
Because the snow in Vancouver is predominantly wet, either coming down as sleet or—even before hitting the streets—turning into mushy slush, as if all the angels in heaven suddenly had sinus problems en masse and began horking simultaneously. And it often winds up turning into rain at some point.
Unlike other parts of Canada or even this province, it’s usually not the fluffy powdery kind that can be swept with a broom. And when it’s wet, it’s also a bastard to shovel and remove from sidewalks and the like.
And this fact brings me to another point of ridicule: Vancouverites using umbrellas when it snows.
There are, believe it or not, several reasons why it makes sense to use umbrellas for Vancouver snow:
- As I just mentioned, it’s wet snow, or sleet or falling slush, which you could collect in a 7-Eleven Slurpee cup, add flavour to, and sell at the winter equivalents of lemonade stands;
- hats or toques don’t protect belongings you’re carrying like bags, tiny dogs, or overgrown adult children in baby carriers;
- it’s a necessity to carry around an umbrella at all times in the city (even on sunny days) so if you have it, you might as well use it;
- it actually works;
- We’re Vancouver—we do things a little differently.
Besides, Vancouverites know that toques are only meant for being worn with shorts and short-sleeves during the summer or while working out to the gym. Strike a pose.
And after all, is there not a thing known as regional differences, non?
The fact that it's wet is also a difference evident in the type of winter chill in the air as well.
As friends and colleagues who have moved here from places in Saskatchewan, Ontario, or Quebec have pointed out to me, the cold in those places are often dry cold. They told me that once they were bundled up, they felt they were able to stay warm. However, here, they struggled to adapt to the wet cold as they found the chilled moisture seeps underneath your layers of clothing no matter how bundled up you are.
And because it’s wet snow, it also usually winds up freezing at night, turning into black ice on both roads and sidewalks.
The worst scenario, which inevitably happens, is when a wet layer freezes over, to be covered by a light sprinkling of a new layer that hides the ice underneath. Not good times for vehicles or pedestrians at all, as it can be visually deceiving. When you think you're driving or walking on a patch of manageable snow, it suddenly gives way to hidden ice.
Jokes aside, it's actually quite dangerous. (I slipped on the ice earlier this week trying to walk down an alleyway that was so polished I wondered if someone drove their Zamboni to work down the lane.)
But then again, many Vancouverites like to live on the edge. (Check out all the nudists flocking down to Wreck Beach at this time of the year. Oh wait, I'm getting mixed up with the Polar Bear Swim at English Bay. Whoops.)
But there’s another issue—Vancouver often only experiences a major snowfall about once or twice a year, if that.
And if it does, it usually doesn’t stick around for very long—maybe one or two days—as it winds up turning into crusty lumps before being washed away by rain.
So because of the extremely brief time frame that we experience snow, that doesn’t give us much time to practice or become accustomed to it (or have a considerable budget for equipment), leaving us quite inexperienced and forgetful by the next time it comes around a year later.
There are probably other reasons why Vancouver struggles each and every time it snows in the city.
But yes, it’s true—Vancouver has never been quite as white as the rest of the Great White North.