The Wild World of Midwest Winter

Winter just isn’t winter without these things

Snow is a North Dakota resident for about seven months each year. Photo by Katie Leier.

The Midwest – all the opes, the overly polite undertones, the hotdishes (what is casserole?), and cold and snow. After living in Fargo my entire life, I am certainly biased when I say all this is “normal.” For the Midwest, this is, indeed, as normal as it gets. 

With this in mind, I would like to take an article to recognize the stereotypical “Fargo winter” aesthetic, since without any of the following, it truly is not winter in North Dakota. I took a poll of people I know – friends, family members, and coworkers – who have either lived here their entire lives, a few years, or recently moved to the Fargo-Moorehead area. The question was what has to happen for it to be Winter in North Dakota?

Some of these responses made me laugh, some made me cry, and some both at the same time. In the end, I have to admit: they all fit a good old Fargo winter.


Windchill, windchill warning, it all adds up. This was the most popular response to my question. Following our past cold snap, with several days of windchill warnings that sent the feels-like temperature into the negative thirties, this is definitely a winter variable.

Also, with a shout out to my cousin who submitted this response: It’s not winter until someone says “it wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the wind”. We say this all year long, but winter is the prime time for this statement.

Interstate is Closed

This happens a few times a year, actually. During a blizzard, or when the wind (see above) is blowing the snow that already fell, impairing visibility, interstates will be closed for anywhere from a few hours to a week or so. 

Soup Day

When the temperature dips and staying inside is the best option, soup becomes a Midwest go-to. For the majority, knoephla soup is the popular choice. 

While I personally am not the biggest knoephla fan in the world, I can stand behind the cozy comfort soup on a winter day – wild rice soup, tomato, homemade chicken noodle – it just fits the vibe.

Although, basically any warm food in sub-zero temps feels good. 

Doors Frozen Shut

We saw a lot of this issue during the past month or so. We had so many days of atypical freezing rain, that the whole world turned into an ice rink.

This meant that car and house doors were frozen. It wasn’t exactly wonderful ice-skating down the driveway to my car, but the real challenge comes in when you try to open a frozen car door while keeping your feet on the ground.

When we don’t have rain, and the temps warm up during the day to the point that the snow melts a little, it inevitably gets colder at night and the water freezes the doors shut.

I can deal with snow, and even wind, but ice is one of the worst factors to deal with, in my humble opinion.

So much for a peaceful, Hallmark movie-esque scenario. I added a few of my own responses to the list, just to give the whole picture.

Weather Men and Women Doing Crazy Stunts

It never fails. Every year, on the local news station, at least one weather personality will go outside in freezing temps to demonstrate just how cold it is. Yes, blowing soap bubbles in negative twenty degrees will make the bubbles freeze and shatter like glass. Yes, fruit freezes solid when you bury it in a snow pile for an hour. Please, Mr. Weatherman, don’t stand in that snowbank to show us how deep it is. We know – we have a pile that’s even taller right outside our back door.

Kicking Sludge From Behind Your Tires

This could possibly be my favorite thing on the list. For as much as I dislike the snow, the ice, the wind, the cold, it is almost worth it to be able to walk up to the car and give the dirty slush behind the front tires a good kick and watch it crumble. 

This is probably one of the only factors of winter that I enjoy. 


Some people love the cold and snow – some of us can’t wait for July. It’s both types of people that make the world go round (also shoutout to those who prefer fall and spring, or what little spring we have). Whichever one you land on, North Dakota winters are something to behold. Make some soup, watch the blizzard warnings come in, and stay off interstate if the driving is terrible. It just wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the wind. 

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