Sunday, February 17, 2008

Michigan Winters

Me, in snowshoes, in the Arboretum.

The winters in Michigan are one of the last things that admissions folks or current students mention to people considering UM. While many of the more northern states boast impressive ski offerings, and beautiful winter getaways mere minutes from the university, Michigan has a giant mountain built out of a landfill, and requires at least a few hours in the car to get to the beautiful state and county parks. What Michigan does offer during the winter, however, is a chance to be creative and innovative. In the interest of full disclosure, here are some examples:

--Michigan provides the opportunity to see how flexible your internal thermostat can be! When the weather fluctuates from a wind chill of -15F to 40F in the space of a week, your body can hardly keep up.

--Michigan dares you to wear more pairs of pants than you ever thought possible. If you have ever had to stand at the bus stops around campus for more than a minute or two during the winter, you’ll understand how close to death you can come in that short period. The answer to the biting wind and blowing snow/rain/sleet/hail is obviously tights, long underwear, and normal pants. You only thought we all gained weight during the winter.

--Michigan challenges you to make the best of a difficult season. There isn’t snow all the time, and it’s almost always cloudy. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get out and have a good time. Sledding, cross-country skiing, and snow-shoeing (see above photo) are all fun options, and there are local spots to rent gear (since you’ll only be able to use it a few weekends).

--Michigan defies your love of precipitation in winter. Sometimes we even get all different kinds at one - euphemistically called “wintery mix.” If you thought you liked cloudy winter skies, think again. Here, you have to love snow, sleet, hail, rain, fog, mist, freezing rain, and “ice-rain”* to enjoy everything coming out of the sky.

--Michigan bets you can’t beat SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). We go weeks without ever seeing the sun. I’ve heard that we have more cloudy days than even some of the more temperate northwest, but I’m a little afraid to check. With a little ingenuity, however, and a small amount of cash, you can invest in a light that has all the right spectra and may help bring you out of your funk.

That said, many people have found Michigan to be a hospitable place. The answer to the question a professor once posed “Why did people ever stay here - why didn’t they keep going?” is probably that they arrived in the fall, when it is beautiful and everyone is happy. Nonetheless, they lived through the winter, and were too weak to keep going afterward, so here we are. Come and visit sometime…

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