How to: survive a snow day

And now to the beautiful and relentless icy enveloping the British Isles. The Met Office has issued severe weather warnings across most of the country, and news is pouring in of closed airports, stranded motorists, temperatures as low as -20 in Altnaharra, Scotland, closed schools and worried farmers.

It is, however, hard to be too sad when the world looks like this.

Great Britain covered in Snow

I have devised a 3-step plan to making it through the chill because I don’t want you to get frostbite.

1. Keep up to date.
Find out what parts of the UK have been worst affected with this Guardian guide . The BBC has regularly updated weather news on the ‘chaos’ gripping the island. The Met Office is the most reliable source of weather forecasts and also has articles explaining the science behind the snowflakes. If you must drive, check out the Highways website for closures and car advice. The only websites I’d suggest not relying on are National Rail and other train services – call stations instead for up-to-date information on trains.

2. Wrap up and stay safe After reports last week of ‘Alaskan’ conditions in the Brecon Beacons leading to a helicopter struggling to save a man stranded with hypothermia on a mountain after the mountain rescuer sent out to help him was also injured we’ve put together a guide to surviving the snow.

If you’re like me, then the wintery conditions will make you want to rush out and trek through the snowflakes, but even experienced walkers with shiny all-weather gear can get into difficulties in treacherous weather. Hypothermia and frostbite are real risks that don’t always just affect the inexperienced. Some of this advice may sound a little obvious, but it makes sense to know the risks and the precautions you should take before you set off into a blizzard, or if you need to help someone less prepared than you.

-Wear several layers of clothing, and keep dry to prevent loss of body heat – a fall into cold water is the main cause of hypothermia when outdoors.
-Watch out for symptoms of hypothermia. These include uncontrollable shivering, slurred speech, slow breathing, a weak pulse, memory lapse, drowsiness and loss of feeling in and pale appearance of extremities.
-Keep moving your arms and legs to help the blood circulate. If you notice these symptoms, get inside as soon as possible and replace wet clothing with warm, dry garments. Hot, sweet drinks and energy bars are a good way to get heat back into the body slowly without shocking the system. In severe cases hypothermia can lead to unconsciousness – call for medical aid.
-Never go hiking after drinking alcohol – as well as impairing your judgement, you’ll lose vital body heat a lot faster. Never ignore shivering – it’s a sign that you need to warm up fast.
-If extremities appear frostbitten (white or grey in colour, and numb), a condition which often goes hand in hand with hypothermia, get indoors fast and immerse fingers and toes in warm water. Avoid very hot water, fires or radiators as numb extremities can be burned without the patient noticing. If you’re far from home, body heat such as your armpits work well too.

3. Look the part
If the idea of huge parkas and snowboots fills you with sartorial terror, check out the Telegraph guide “How to dress in the snow”. Who said cold ain’t chic?

4. Go out and enjoy it!
I try to take things like this seriously, but snow days only fill me with joy. I know it’s cold and inconvenient but it is also beautiful, peaceful and a fantastic excuse to sack off work, go sledding, make a snowman and have a pint in a warm pub. I recommend that, unless you find yourself in mortal peril, you take advantage of the beauty and peace of snow – trek to the nearest coop, stock up on hot chocolate ingredients and then do as below.


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  1. December 2, 2010 / 8:04 am

    LOVE this post. Absolutely amazing pics too.

    I’m hugely jealous of my family who ALL have snow days in Surrey! Nothing to do but make cream teas and hot chocolate and play in the snow.

    I was getting really sick of all the moaning on the news and on facebook, thanks for reminding us why snow is fab!

  2. Don
    December 3, 2010 / 7:18 pm

    A pleasant winter wonder land. well done. And just to think here in far eastern canada, the land of many snows, we still no snow yet at all love don and barbara

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