15 Feb 2016

Vortex

This weekend, we were caught in a polar vortex. This sounds like technobabble from Star Trek and if it was, it would describe environmental conditions not seen on Class M planets. Sadly, in the part of this planet where these lines are written, polar vortexes are all too common

Since Friday, temperatures have been dropping to around -25C, and with gusty winds the perceived temperature fell to -40C on Saturday. When people talk of a personal low, that's not usually what they mean. I, though, have lived through this new low.

While cold days in Québec winter are not news to the readers of this blog,  a fresh experience can now be added to the warming yarn of vortex survivors: While walking against the wind on Saturday, the water from my eyes froze around my eyelashes, making it almost impossible to keep them open. It was, per se, a rather fascinating phenomenon to experience, although heresay would have been good enough. At least I now understand why some people wear ski goggles when walking their dogs in the vortex. The dogs, in turn, are dressed in no less silly looking coats and boots.

Proper gear, then, is the key to survival in these conditions, when even major cities see temperatures usually reserved for the Arctic. Those Canada Goose jackets, so frequently found in the tropical heat of St. Moritz and Vail, find their true calling here.

Nonetheless, even hardy Canadians can only take so much punishment. On Monday, talk around the office water cooler tea kettle was ripe with tales of cancelled ski lessons, postponed chalet trips and Netflix binge-watching sessions. Not coincidentally, full-page ads for package holidays down south adorned the weekend papers. On the metro, I overheard two passengers compare the respective ills of sunburn and frostbite.

So why was I still out there, frozen eyelashes and all? The polar vortex had perturbed my weekend plans as well. Snowshoeing in the countryside was put off in favor of another indulgent winter activity, whose main component needed to be picked up at Atwater market's fromagerie. This weeked, instead of raquette, I enjoyed raclette!

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