How To Survive A Yukon Winter

In the middle of summer, the Yukon doesn’t seem like such an unforgiving place—the sun is warm, the days are long, everything is green and the flowers are in bloom. In the middle of winter, however, it’s a much different story. The sun does not warm you and getting wet could mean death. At 40 below, with no wind, and just a light covering of clothing, the cold will kill a wet person very quickly.

The coldest air temperature ever taken in North America was in Snag, Yukon in February 1947.

It was -63°C!

These are the perfect conditions to recreate those videos you see all the time on YouTube—throwing boiling water in the air and watch as it turns to frozen chunks of ice before hitting the ground.

The hearty folks over at the Yukon Learn Society offer some tips on how to survive 40 below.

  • Dress in layers—your body heat gets trapped in the air pockets between all the layers to help keep you warm. If you begin to sweat, simply remove some layers or slow down.
  • Wear a windproof jacket and pants—the windchill makes it feel colder than the actual temperature outside.
  • Wear soft footwear that allows the blood to flow freely to all parts of your feet.
  • Mittens are warmer than gloves.
  • Wear a hat and full scarf or balaclava to protect your cheeks, chin, nose, and ears. A scarf also helps to warm the air before your breathe it in.
  • If you will be outside all day, bring a change of base layers in case they get sweaty—wet clothes make you cold faster.
  • Keep moving—your body creates heat when it moves.
  • Keep eating and drinking liquids such as hot tea– your body needs fuel to keep you warm.
  • If you think you have frostnip or frostbite, don’t re-warm the area until you know for sure you are out of the cold for good.
  • When you do get inside, put bare skin on the affected area (like in an armpit), get into dry clothing, drink or eat something warm, and warm up with blankets.
  • When it’s really, really cold (think 50- to 60 below), take short breaths to avoid freezing your lungs. Yeah, that’s a thing.

And remember, most cold injuries happen because you push yourself too far. You’re cold and wet, but think hey, it’s not worth it to stop, build a fire and warm up. You just want to get home. But by the time you arrive, you now have a cold injury that could have been prevented.