The (North Dakota) Winter’s Tale

JACK DURA | THE SPECTRUM The vast flatness of eastern North Dakota lends itself to landscape photography on days when the blue sky and white snow contrast.
The vast flatness of eastern North Dakota lends itself to landscape photography on days when the blue sky and white snow contrast.

We’re in the thick of it now.

A North Dakota winter, that is. Ah yes, that season of seasons has reared its (un)pleasant head again.

But lament not, fine reader! In a season that sees temperatures range from 40 above to 40 below, a North Dakota winter offers several upsides.

What may these be? Allow me to explain. I’ve got over 20 years of experience on the Upper Great Plains, and North Dakota winters are my specialty.

Here are the greatest hits of any winter up here in ol’ NoDak:

The landscape

Some folks gripe and groan about the extremely flat landscape of eastern North Dakota, which seems even worse in winter for some reason.

Perhaps it’s because of those days when the sky and land are the same color: white (or light gray, depending on the snow you’re standing in).

I admit, even I abhor an entirely white landscape. It’s one-third of the reason why I took up the ukulele. But grab your cameras, my friends, because a North Dakota winter can create quite an occasion for scenic photography.

On a bright, clear day with beaming, blue skies, the immensity of the snow-covered flatness is a view to behold.

Heck, head south of town and shoot across some farmland the next day the sun comes out and the clouds go away. Winter photography around here is a treasure, and beyond the flat, frozen landscape under a blue sky, there are icicles, hoarfrost, wildlife and more of nature’s winter wonders to ogle over.

The conversations waiting to happen 

I can tell you that North Dakota winters are legendary in conversation.

People far and wide have heard about the weather we get up here between November and May, and it’s a conversation starter if you can say you’ve experienced a NoDak winter.

No kiddin’. I’m telling you, next party you’re at, go break the ice with a North Dakota winter tale, and you’ll be a hit. Do it in a different state, and you’ll rack up even more points.

And no, I’m not kiddin’. For serious, you guys, I could talk about my uncle who went icefishing on Lake Audubon on May 3 last year. May 3! Caught his limit in walleyes, then walked off the ice. Jeez, spring sher came late to McLean County.

I met a woman last fall who moved up from Texas in October 2013, just in time for winter. Did she like it? She loved it! She called it refreshing and looked forward to the next one. Luckily for her, it’s here!

The fashion 

You can wear whatever you want during a North Dakota winter — you just have to dress in layers.

Sure, you can’t negotiate your coat (that’s gotta be warm), but whatever’s under that thing is all you.

I’m telling you, I wore enough layers one winter day that I had 14 different outfits on hand (without accessories).

The key to layering is knowing how to suit up and strip down.

Fer instance, a tank-top, white t-shirt, Bison sweatshirt, zip-up jacket and Columbia Frost-Fighter make the right combination. Depending on your day, you could shed one to four layers for any assortment of tops.

Pants are non-negotiable. You need pants in a North Dakota winter. Long underwear is up to you. Socks are a must, though. I recommend wool, but not the type that breaks you out in hives.

Sorting and shedding your clothing in layers is just another A1 aspect of North Dakota winters.

It’ll be a good 16 weeks til we see any sign of spring, so make the winter last and bundle up.

It’s cold out.

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