A Californian's Guide to Surviving A Utah Winter

Winter. It’s a word that I, a native Southern Californian, never truly understood until moving to Utah. Growing up in California, my worst experience with winter was going out at night in January when the temperature was slightly under 50 degrees. I was spoiled, to say the least. Dealing with snow, ice, and temperatures under 30 degrees was definitely a shock to the system. I would be lying if I said I didn’t call my parents and beg them to let me come home for the weekends so I could escape the seemingly unbearable cold. Each call ended abruptly with a “No, suck it up and learn how to layer!” Eventually, I learned how to survive as best I could living completely out of my element. So, here are my top ten tips for surviving winter in Utah.


1. Layer, layer, layer. 

When I say layer, I don’t mean to just wear a t-shirt under your sweatshirt. I mean wear your t-shirt under a crewneck, wear a sweatshirt over your crewneck, and then throw on a windbreaker on top of all of that. You can always take off layers if you get too hot, but when it's freezing outside, a jacket isn’t going to magically appear if you suddenly get goosebumps. 


2. Sneakers are not going to cut it anymore.

I know that you can get away with wearing them year-round in California, but ice is real and you will slip. I wore Vans to class after a big snow storm and slid halfway down a hill. Additionally, sneakers will NOT keep your feet warm. So, if you value the ability to feel your toes, I suggest buying a pair of waterproof boots. 



Living in California you don’t really have to worry about the possibility of your lips cracking and not being able to smile due to chapped lips. In Utah, it’s a different story. You need to stay strapped with at least one chapstick at all times. You and your lips will thank me later.  


4. Not everyone will dress for the weather.

People are going to be wearing shorts and t-shirts when its below 35 degrees outside. All you can do is observe and continue on your way. I’m convinced they are immune to cold and don’t feel anything because they’ve lived here their whole lives. I’ve accepted the fact that I will never be on that level, and that’s okay with me.  


5. You’re surrounded.

What I mean when I say surrounded is that there are mountains everywhere, and there is nothing you can do about it. There’s no ocean and you’re landlocked. It’s okay to freak out for a day, but trust me; they’re gorgeous and you will miss the mountains when you’re gone. Accept it and know that the ocean will always be back there in California.


6. Did I mention layering? 

7. The weather will get depressing and dark.

It can be gloomy and hard to motivate yourself to get up out of bed and try to make it to class on time. In California, you can always count on the sun to make an appearance at least once during the day. It’s a little different in Utah, but don’t worry; I promise the sun is still there. Treat yourself for making it to class or make it a goal to grab a warm cup of coffee or a donut before class. It will definitely warm you up and motivate you for the rest of the day.


8. Moisturize!

Your hands will start to crack from the dry environment, and trust me when I say the dry skin look is not cute. Keep a small bottle of moisturizer in your backpack that you can use multiple times throughout the day.


9. Invest in a warm and waterproof jacket.

I know they can sometimes be pricey, but the investment will be worth it. You can use it for snowstorms, rain, or just to block the wind. I came to Utah with only sweatshirts and jean jackets, which was not very smart. It only took me about a week into November to realize I needed to get a better jacket, so I rushed to the Patagonia outlet and picked up an affordable jacket. I’m not lying when I say I wear it every day. 


10. Enjoy it!

Although the weather can be intimidating at first, you will get used to it. Utah is beautiful and unlike any other state. Appreciate the view of the mountains you get from campus and the glistening snow on the trees after a snowstorm. You can’t get anything like it in California. 

Here you have ten tips to surviving winter in Utah. Make sure to put them to good use this semester!

Photo Source: 12