Why I live where the air hurts my face

Edmonton has many bonuses as a winter city

It’s been below -30 for three days now as I write this. Every time it gets cold in Edmonton, there is a picture that gets circulated amongst my friends. It’s a cartoon drawing of a person bundled up in winter clothing, proclaiming that the air hurts their face, and questioning why they live somewhere where the air hurts their face. Every year, we chuckle and hit ‘like’ and move on.

But, why do we live here? Temperatures below -30 happen every year. I grew up wearing Halloween costumes over my snowsuits and walking through four feet of snow to get to school. Winters are cold and long here. We get two months of summer, assuming we don’t get 54 days of rain like we did in 2019, with the river freezing as early as October and not thawing until April or May. The rest is a purgatory of weather too cold for shorts and too warm for sweaters. So again, why do we live here?

We’re not called the Festival City for nothing. Edmonton hosts more than 50 internationally acclaimed festivals every year. In fact, our very own Alberta Avenue just hosted the 13th annual Deep Freeze Festival, often billed as the first festival of the year. There are festivals for everyone—from music and theatre to thrill rides and cats. The festivals are heavily featured in our brief summer, but some like Ice on Whyte and Flying Canoë Volant could only happen in our cold winter.

Did I mention food? In addition to the multitude of festivals with amazing food, and festivals that feature only food, Edmonton is home to world class restaurants and culinary experiences. As recent as this past summer, Edmonton has been featured in regional and international columns praising our culinary explosion in recent years, with restaurants such as OTTO, Bündok, RGE RD, and Pip leading the way. And don’t forget to visit the Green Onion Cake Man, the definitive Edmonton dish, on your way down 118 Ave.

Our city also features a little slice of heaven known as the river valley. As the largest urban park in Canada with more than 160 kilometres of paths and 20 parks, the City of Edmonton bills the river valley as “A natural wonder for all Edmontonians to be proud of.” It offers a plethora of free outdoor programming all year long, both along the river and right on the water. How many cities in Canada offer the option of getting married on a fully functional riverboat?

All fun aside, if you need health care or have kids in school, you are in fantastic hands here. The University of Alberta is a top five Canadian university, and students from elementary to high schools rank in the top 10 in the world in reading, math, and science. In addition, the Stollery Children’s Hospital is a literal life saver that leads the country in health care services for children. And leaning on the world-class research within the U of A, Edmonton leads the way in medical innovation, with the “Edmonton Protocol” for treating a stubborn strand of diabetes being pioneered here, as well as the world’s only Gamma Knife for treating brain tumors housed right here in our city.

No article talking about what makes Edmonton worth the weather Mother Nature throws at us is complete without talking about the amazing people who live here. Yes, you—reading this article right now—are surrounded by kind and giving people who would just as easily shovel your sidewalk as invite you to Folk Fest. Want someone to share a poutine with while watching Canada Day fireworks? They are there. Need a car boost in the parking lot? No need to go look for help; someone is already on their way. 

If you’re sitting there thinking that you don’t know anyone like that, meet your neighbours. The fastest way to meet people who care is to volunteer and make friends with fellow volunteers. Sure, there are a few weirdos out there, but we’re all a little odd after a few days of -40.


Featured Image: Festivals like Deep Freeze help make our winter city fun to live in. | Epic Photography

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