23 Things to Love about Winter in Nova Scotia

Snowy road
Snowy road
With thanks to my Facebook friends for their contributions.

  1. The smooth, quiet brush of fresh snow under your skis.
  2. The way ice breaks and cracks over rocks as the tide falls.
  3. Empty beaches with shimmering vistas.
  4. Sea ice and rock
    Sea ice and rock, low tide
    The mildness, softness and peace a snowfall brings.
  5. Like the folks here, a winter is softness and gentility: quite well mannered, and departs when the welcome is worn.
  6. Snow days!
  7. A crackling fire in a woodstove making heat that penetrates to your bones.
  8. Walking past a buoy
    A boy and a buoy

    Walking ON the bay in places we usually row, paddle or sail.

  9. Sunlight sparkling off snow-laden branches.
  10. Minas Basin ice shifting, buckling, making strange sculptures on the shore.
  11. Magnificent bald eagles.
  12. Watching the days get longer in the coldest part of the winter.
  13. Snow on Victorian house
    Icing on the cake
    Shovelling the driveway with a helper who will clear up the last little bits: the sun.
  14. NO mosquitoes, NO blackflies, NO no-see-ums!
  15. The weather changes frequently: it’s fairly mild, and cold snaps are short, warm periods are also short.  There’s something for everyone and no time to get bored!
  16. The province is small but has a variety of microclimates.  Want more snow?  Ski hills are not so far away.  Want less snow?  Go walk a deserted South Shore beach.
  17. Ice floes
    Ice floes
  18. Memories of crazy winter antics performed when we were young and immortal: descending hills at great speed, jumping from one ice floe to another as the frozen ocean broke up (some have memories of being rescued in these situations!), “getting towed on a sled behind my dad’s car on a snow-covered gravel road, riding my bike through the streets of Halifax when the snow wasn’t too bad,” ice boating, skating on thin ice….
  19. Maple syrup made in the woods.
  20. Car in a drift
    Alone in a drift

    Patterns made by drifting snow.

  21. Winter skies unlike anything you see in the summer.
  22. Eating fresh snow.
  23. Cardinals and purple finches at the feeder.
  24. Getting insight into the life of rabbits from their tracks in the woods.

Oak leaf shape in ice
Oak leaf shape in ice
So there are some of the things we love about winter in Nova Scotia.  What are yours?  Leave a comment below.

A winter drive in Lunenburg Co.

Let me take you for a drive after a snowfall.

Highway 103
Heading west, past Mahone Bay, on Highway 103
Cornwall Road
Turn north at Blockhouse onto the Cornwall Road
Mushamush River
Along the Mushamush River in Middle New Cornwall
Crossroad Farm
Turn left at Crossroad Farm in Upper New Cornwall. It's for sale, by the way.
Cross Road
West on Cross Road
House on Cross Road
Another house
Along Cross Road
Further along Cross Road, heading west
sign covered in snow.
Which way now? Can't read the sign. Keep to the left.
Farm on Cross Road
Upper Northfield churches
Ah, here we are, at Upper Northfield.

All photos taken on Thursday, January 21, on my way to Pinehurst, just west of Upper Northfield.

The long drive to Upper Canada

Road through New Brunswick
The highway through New Brunswick has been greatly improved.

Some take it in stride; others would rather fly. The train is rather nice. I took the bus once – never again. But many, perhaps most, Nova Scotians have done the long drive between Nova Scotia and Ontario (once called Upper Canada) or Quebec (formerly Lower Canada) at least once. Many have gone “down the road” to seek their fortunes and return to Nova Scotia for holidays. Others make the trip regularly, in one direction or the other, with kids in tow.

But doing it in winter? Is it crazy?

We did just that for our Christmas holidays. It certainly is a bit of an adventure. The roads have been improved in recent years, but it’s still necessary to prepare for the unexpected.

Church in Batiscan, Quebec
Church in Batiscan, Quebec

The new toll highway through the Cobequid Pass in northern NS, which shortens the trip, was closed for 14 hours overnight a couple of years ago during a snowstorm. Imagine a family travelling in a car getting stuck for that period of time. My sister was once delayed for 3 days in northern New Brunswick, in the snow belt between Fredericton and Rivière-du-loup, with her dog. You also have to deal with heavy truck traffic, constantly spraying your windshield and dictating your speed.

The alternative, flying, is iffy too, if your goal is to be “home for Christmas” as I learned by experience years ago. Flights are often delayed by weather, and it is an expensive time of year to fly, especially for a family.

Man driving
The long drive: just relax and enter the Zone.

So we got our VW diesel Jetta into excellent running order, checked the snow tires, packed provisions and entertainment in case we were delayed en route and had to tuck into a motel for a few days, carried bedding for warmth in case we were stranded by the side of the road, packed extra motor oil and wiper fluid, and even a spare battery, just in case.

Long distance sailors say that if you want to meet up with them, they can promise you a time or a place, but not both. A long winter driving trip is a bit like that. Most of the time, the roads are fine. So we kept our fingers crossed, while preparing for whatever would be thrown our way.

We were lucky this time, with smooth sailing all the way. If we’d returned home one day earlier or later, we’d have found ourselves in a blizzard.

Trees, and a sign saying Nature's Air Filters
Nature's air filters stand on guard for us the day after a blizzard hit New Brunswick.
Best Western Hotel pool, Edmundston
Out of the water slide and into the pool at top speed, at the Edmundston Best Western Hotel, a great reward for kids after a long drive.

Edmundston, New Brunswick, is a good overnight stopping place for those who aren’t inclined to drive straight through the night. Several hotels cater to people traveling through. Sitting in the hot tub at the Best Western, I chatted with other Nova Scotians, heading either east or west, while our kids enjoyed the water slide. I felt part of a special club of hardy pilgrims keeping alive our family ties and connections to “home”.

The days are getting a little longer

… I think. At least the sun has come out as the temperatures dive well below freezing. After several days of hovering around the 0°C mark, the sun rose to -14°C. Time for a walk.

Steam rises from the water of Mahone Bay in the early morning sun
The sun rises behind islands in Mahone Bay
Pine tree
The rising sun kisses the snow

Video: Frosty Morning – Winter Ice on Mahone Bay

Hot off the press: our first Nova Scotia Photo Album video. It won’t be the last!

This one shows how tide and temperature create an ever-changing landscape on Mahone Bay’s shoreline, from first frost to spring breakup.

The music is an Appalachian tune called Frosty Morning, played by Dennis Robinson on fiddle and Heather Holm (that’s me) on accordion.

Ice leaves, buffleheads take over

The ice that yesterday filled the cove has floated out to sea.
The ice that yesterday filled the cove has floated out to sea. The Oak Island Inn (which is not on Oak Island, but overlooks it) is in the distance.
As soon as the ice had melted, the bufflehead ducks that had all winter occupied the other side of the causeway, the side that didn't freeze, gleefully (I imagine) took possession of the newly open water.

A foggy morning on the Nova Scotia coast

Sheltered inlets are still iced in.
Sheltered inlets are still iced in.

It turned out to be a beautiful sunny day with temperatures well above freezing.  We have a lot of snow and ice for that sun to melt.  Still, it feels like spring on a day like this.  Some people find this time of year difficult in Nova Scotia, when daffodils are blooming in Victoria on the “other coast”.  Others relish the cold temperatures and make the most of it.  As for me, I’ve usually had my nose buried in my work at this time of year and this year is no exception.  And I’m grateful for that.