How to Survive Winter in the Pacific Northwest

As a Pacific Northwest native, each year as the weather grows colder and the sky grays over, I mentally prepare for another long winter. After all the beautiful summer and fall days it can be a difficult transition, but as the last orange and gold leaf falls, I buck up and accept that it may be seven months before I see the sun again.

The winter weather forecast > RAIN

So here are my tips for surviving the winter in the Pacific Northwest:

1. Don’t be afraid of getting wet

A little rain never hurt anyone. Just because it’s wet and blustery, don’t hunker down inside – get out there. Do the activities you enjoy and kick the rain in the butt.

2. Invest in a good rain coat & waterproof shoes

There is nothing worse than getting drenched because your umbrella broke in the wind and rain, so go ahead and spend a little extra cash on a nice, water proof rain coat and solid, warm shoes. While it might not be the most stylist attire, neither is sopping pants and hair. Plus once you have a coat, nothing can stop you!

Getting ready for a race in the snow! Brrrr…

3. Stay active

Rain is not a good excuse to sit on your bum all day. Join a gym or take an exercise class to keep the limbs moving, body happy, and energy high. Want to sweat out your winter blues? Try hot yoga for an invigorating and warm work out.

Running in the rain can be exciting too! I’m training for my first half marathon this spring. Using a weekly run schedule, I have set work-outs and motivation to keep going all winter long (or I hope so!)

Also play hard when it is sunny outside. May be brisk, but sunshine will lift your spirits and boost energy for the rainy days to follow.

4. Discover your artsy side

Sometimes when it’s cold and wet outside, you just don’t want to be in it. When it’s really nasty, I like to take advantage of the PNW’s fantastic arts scene. Go see a movie, local theater show, concert or wander through one of the beautiful museums and galleries.

In Washington, explore the Seattle Center for a variety of galleries, science exhibits, music, food and more or take in a concert at the Show Box. Afterward head south to Tacoma and visit the Museum of Glass.

In Oregon, visit OMSI in Portland or the Science Factory in Eugene for hands-on family fun. Single? Stop by one of these museum’s After Hours parties to learn and play too! Both cities’ downtown’s are also packed with art galleries showcasing everything from traditional art to eclectic & experimental. Two of my favorites in Eugene are the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art and Opus VII.

I grew up skiing in the Cascades.

5. Hit the slopes

While it may be raining in the Willamette Valley & Puget Sound that equates to fresh powder on the mountains. Find a cozy cabin in the cascades or head to high altitudes to play in the snow. If you don’t like to ski or snowboard try tubing or snowshoeing.

On my Bucket List this winter is to snowshoe around Salt Creek and Crater Lake.

6. Find a great deal

Purchase a Groupon or LivingSocial coupon and try something new. Watch the site daily for new ideas in your area. Also look for other local coupon sites that offer similar discounts.

7. Become a fan

Oregon Ducks basketball game at Matt Knight Arena

Cheer on your favorite team or attend a new sport at an indoor arena. Winter is basketball season and the colleges around the area are heating up the floor shooting hoops – you don’t even have to worry about wage strikes at these games. For something a little less traditional, go to a hockey or roller derby bout – maybe you’ll even get inspired to join a team of your own?

8. Get a library card & find a new reading nook

I’m all about the free books and movies at the library. Make a winter reading list and write down those recommendations friends keep sharing. Once you finish one book you can pick the next one up on the same trip without losing momentum.

Also find a new place to read. Instead of always curling up on the couch head to a local coffee shop, café or other public space to read. It gets you out of the house and breaks up long days. Plus I enjoy people watching – you never know who you might meet!

9. Take advantage of the delicious season foods

With cold weather, comes amazing, warm foods. Enjoy the appetizing bounty at food and wine festivals or cook a hardy dish and invite the friends. I sip with delight rich red wines and savory winter beers to warm from the inside out. Try a spicy Washington Syrah or season beers like Ninkasi Brewering Company’s Sleigh’r or Deschutes Brewery’s Jubelale.

10. Be Prepared

While you don’t –usually – have to worry about your roof flying off, every once in while there is a big storm. At home make sure you have a few working flashlights with extra batteries, warm blankets, bottled water, and basic first aid kit. Also if the temperature dips below freezing, leave a little water running so your pipes don’t freeze.

Just as important as winter-proofing the house, prepare your car for any unexpected winter hazards. In addition to the above items, pack a shovel, chains and gloves if you plan to travel over the mountains. Also check your car tires’ thread before the heavy rains start to stay firmly on the road.

Before hitting the highway check websites: in Oregon and in Washington for road conditions and traffic. I also like to use Waze on my iPhone for instant updates.

11. Be a weather warrior

Finally, don’t get sucked into the gray obis. While I do my fair share of winter weather whining, keep hiking, running, biking – whatever you love – and before you know it poppies will bloom and the sun will make its grand entrance for summer.

What is your favorite winter activity?

Do you have more winter weather tips? Share below:

Published by Kelsey Ivey

An avid traveler and hiker, Kelsey is a freelance writer and professional explorer.

4 thoughts on “How to Survive Winter in the Pacific Northwest

  1. We are planning to move to Oregon in 2 years when my husband retires. Ever since we starting talking about it people have warned me about the rain there. I started noticing how dreary the winters are where I live. Last year we went 3 weeks without any sun! So, I love your list and plan to put it to good use!!

  2. I am definitely a weather warrior, although I do hate the rain. Similar climate up here in Vancouver, so I tend to look at the 2 week weather forecast and try to base some of my outdoor activity off of that.

    Enjoyed the read Kelsey!

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