a photo of the aurora borealis


How Our Family Survives the Polar Night in the Northwest Territories

Feb 4, 2020

Five years ago, if you’d told me I’d be walking to work during an extreme cold warning I’d have said you were losing your mind.

In fact, five years ago I would have thought that even the idea of living, raising a child and braving the weather in the Northwest Territories was ludicrous.

Yet, here I am.

Don't have the Northern Lights to gaze at in the night sky? No sweat! Read about 50 outdoor activities you can do with the kids here.

And now you’ll find me walking to work at - 42 C (windchill - 54 C), with my toddler in the stroller and my husband beside me. And yes, our eyelashes are frozen and ice fog surrounds us.

The craziest part? We genuinely love it. We’ve never been happier.

When people from home ask us about the north, they always want to know about how amazing the midnight sun is. They want to hear about the benefits of 24 hours of daylight and consistent warmth. (It’s nice, but there are mosquitoes as big as Volkswagens.)

Usually this is followed with a, “It must be so hard to live in the darkness, though.”

No one believes me, but winter is my favorite time of year.

There are so many magical parts to winter that people forget about!

There’s the way the moon hazily shines through the ice fog on my morning walk to work, or the way the snow settles on branches, entirely undisturbed. And then there’s the silence — I love the silence of being outside in the winter.

"By the time I have one thing on her and move to the next, she’s managed to take something else off."

It’s not just that, though. It’s watching the sun rise at 10 a.m. from my office window, and getting the opportunity to hold a steaming cup of tea as I breathe in the clean, fresh air.

I enjoy winter — despite the fact that no one believes me — because of my mindset. I don’t doubt that it would be easy to stay inside or drive everywhere I need to go, but I’d much rather embrace winter for what it is. Which is why I have no trouble pulling on layer after layer of clothing when I need to leave the house.

A lot of people have asked how my partner and I make it work with our toddler and truth be told, it can be tough!

Getting her dressed to go outside can be a real challenge, and the battle to get into a snowsuit is no joke. I had always thought parents were exaggerating when they talked about the battle of wills that is putting on snow boots and mittens, but now I get it.

By the time I have one thing on her and move to the next, she’s managed to take something else off. Usually when we get outside though, and the tears have stopped, she has fun.

Here are a few tips for parents trying to get their little ones outside when it’s really cold, from someone who loves the cold and living in one of the coldest parts of Canada.

Here’s what I do:

  • Even when I’m not interested, I pretend I am excited about getting out there. My kid’s smile makes it all worth it.
  • Layer. Then layer again and again.
  • Exercise, but don’t sweat. If you were cold before, then you’ll get really cold with a layer of sweat.
  • When I’m rushing from point A to point B, I stop and look around. It’s too easy to forget or breeze past the beauty around us, so I always take brief moments where I can — and the scenery up here is always more beautiful than I remember.
  • Never forget gloves or their hands will stick to the doorknob.
  • I don’t complain about the cold, because my kid learns from me!
  • I have invested in a good outdoor stroller and sled so my little one can take breaks from walking.

But if you want to know why I truly love the polar night, even more than the midnight sun, it’s the sky.

Looking up and watching the northern lights dance across the sky or the stars stretch as far as the eye can see is truly magical. 

Article Author Megan Wood
Megan Wood

Read more from Megan here.

Megan Wood is a wife and mother of one. Born and raised on Prince Edward Island, she moved to the Northwest Territories with her husband in 2015 where she works as a registered nurse. In her spare time she’s an avid reader, writer and world traveler — as these are her favourite ways to learn. She hopes to extend her love of learning to her daughter. When not chasing her toddler, Megan can be found with a cup of tea or glass of wine and a good book.

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