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WINTER AS CHALLENGE ROB SHIELDS Winter is understood as a challenge whether in the city or the countryside. In the past, summer was devoted to preparing food, fuel and shelter to survive inclement weather, cold and seasons during which there was no produce. This seasonal cycle has defined both rural and urban over centuries, shaping both history and daily life. Where Napoleon was in part defeated by the Russian winter, the Inuit have survived for tens of thousands of years in northern climates.

TO FIGHT BACK OR TO APPEASE WINTER? Winter is an operational challenge especially in the context of mobility. Automobiles skid and get stuck in snow, aircrafts are grounded by ice, bicycles become treacherously unbalanced, and buses are delayed leaving passengers in the cold. Those who take public transit would likely agree that waiting in the cold is the worst part of taking the bus in winter. Walking short distances from the bus stop to the final destination is manageable, but slippery sidewalks and frigid temperatures discourage longer walks. For families living on farms and acreages, the mobility challenge is compounded by distance. The clearing of long stretches of rural roads is often left to residents, leaving some stranded for days after a blizzard. The challenges of mobility are echoed by the public who typically complains about such winter nuisances as snow clearing, sidewalk and road conditions and the ‘potholes’ in asphalt roads that result from frost. Municipalities respond by combating winter on a military scale: snow is 1

cleared by heavy machinery; dark days are lit; sand, gravel and salt are spread to add traction on icy surfaces; and water supply that has been frozen is thawed. We have not adapted to the climate or seasons as we have done in the past. Historically roads for horses and sleds did not require plowing, but of course travel distances in the past were not ambitious. Today we plow paths of bare, summer-like roads through snowy landscapes for long crosscountry travel. But is victory truly possible in this fight against winter? Some communities have turned to the seasonal activities in order to make winter more enjoyable. A cue can be taken from children playing in the snow. For example, building things with snow – snowmen and other snow sculptures, snow houses and caves, and forts – and of course activities such as making snow angels and the iconic snowball fight define winter just as much as frigid temperatures or darkness. The natural extension of these activities is the winter festival, the subject of Jay Walljasper’s article Great Winter Cities Show Cold Weather Can Be Cool. Walljasper shows how Christmas markets and celebrations bring vibrancy to public spaces all year round. But there are also other possibilities besides Christmas.The winter season also hosts special religious festivities. The lit, outdoor Christmas tree is one of the best examples of how a religious celebration has been married to the winter season. What are the other possibilities around the winter solstice, Channuka or Eid?

CITY–REGION STUDIES CENTRE | University of Alberta

THE BUSINESS OF WINTER Whether plowing a road or renting skis, winter is a seasonal economy worth billions. Its distinctiveness from year-round temperate regions makes winter an important distinguishing feature that is too often neglected in regional identities even though it is an attraction and a special experience for visitors from warm climates. As Susan Holdsworth discusses in her article, some municipalities seen the opportunities inherent in winter and have branded themselves as winter cities. Some communities focus on winter sports such as hockey and curling and skiing. These games are not only cultural icons, but also define the recreational and commercial life of communities. They also make a major contribution to the tourism industry. The opportunity for development and business lies in incrementally extending existing winter businesses and economies into new sectors – branding clothing for example, or testing outdoor equipment, vehicles and infrastructure. Restaurants can extend their outdoor patio season by offering customers blankets and outdoor heat lamps. Cold offers the compensation of warming up in front of a fire, which has also inspired foods and hot drinks. Winter is thus not only a challenge but a programming opportunity.

PLANNING AND DESIGNING IN WINTER In cities, architectural critics have pointed out that we have tended to wall out nature, especially cold weather. Pedway systems have not only drawn people off of streets but do not adjust to sunny days whether in winter or

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CURB Magazine 3.1  

Curb Magazine is about policy practice and community experiences in cities, regions, and rural areas. Curb is distributed to municipal offic...

CURB Magazine 3.1  

Curb Magazine is about policy practice and community experiences in cities, regions, and rural areas. Curb is distributed to municipal offic...

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