Winter in Edmonton

Winter Outdoor Temperatures

The temperature in Edmonton during the winter months can vary greatly day to day, and even throughout an individual day. Here's what you can expect of the different temperatures:

  • +5°C to -5°C: These days will be warmer than average, and quite wet (as snow will melt a bit), and likely sunny. You won't see many of these days during winter, so take advantage of them and enjoy the outdoors.
  • -5°C to -15°C: This range will be fairly common for winter, with many days hovering around -10°C during daylight hours. During these temperatures it isn't too cold outside, although if you're outside for a long time you may feel chilled.
  • -15°C to -25°C: You can expect it to be about this cold at night, and in the early morning before the sun rises, but these temperatures are a bit colder than average for the daytime. Wearing proper winter clothing is a must, as it's very easy to get frostbite at these temperatures.
  • -25°C to -35°C: Days like these are the coldest you should encounter in Edmonton. When the temperatures dip below -30°C, you'll probably want to avoid going outside - unless you're wearing a lot of warm clothing. Being outside without proper clothing at these temperatures can be dangerous, and you'll find yourself quickly chilled.

Winter Clothing

Dressing for the weather will let you make the most of the winter season. On some days you might only need a light jacket or a heavy sweater, but on other days you'll need to "bundle up" (Canadian slang for wearing heavy winter clothing) to stay comfortable when it's very cold.

1. Jackets/Coats/Parkas: It's important to have at least one warm, windproof (and water-resistant) winter coat. Your coat should fit with a little room, so that you have room for extra layers on really cold days.

2. Layers: Dressing in layers can help keep you warm, as well as allowing you to regulate your temperature if the weather changes throughout the day. Wearing a sweater or an extra shirt can keep you warm, especially as many buildings feel colder during the winter.

3. Boots/Shoes: Good boots and shoes are some of the most important things for getting the most out of winter. Look for footwear with a deep tread (so it can grip better on snow and ice), as well as insulation, so your feet will not be cold. Keeping your feet (and other extremities) warm will help keep your whole body warm.

4. Gloves/Mittens: You'll need some warm gloves or mittens for the colder days of winter, as well as some lighter gloves for the warmer days.

5. Toques/Hats and Scarves: A good toque (knit cap) or winter hat will be warm, and importantly, cover your ears. A warm scarf will provide additional insulation, and help you protect yourself from chilly winds.

6. Thermal Underwear: If you find yourself feeling cold during winter, thermal underwear is an excellent option. Having this extra layer can make a big difference, especially if you're outside for long periods of time.

7. Snow/Ski Pants: If you're participating in many winter activities (such as tobogganing, skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing), you may want to purchase some snow or ski pants. These pants will be insulated, and have a windproof/water-resistant exterior.

Important: Unless you already have winter clothing that you plan to bring with you, the best option is often to buy your winter clothing after you arrive in Edmonton. Winter clothing is often quite bulky, so it's important to account for this if you're planning on packing it with your luggage.

This tuque (also known as a knit cap) is worn to keep your head warm during winter. It is a classic piece of Canadian apparel.

These are insulated gloves.

General Tips for Winter

This is any icy sidewalk. Walk carefully!

Winter can be very pretty. However, snow may cover up icy patches.

  • Check daily weather forecasts and dress appropriately (Environment Canada: 780-468–4940; Weatheroffice). Winter temperatures can range from +5 to -35 degrees Celsius.
  • Allow extra time for both walking and public transit (buses and trains), especially after a snowfall
  • Get out during the daylight! Edmonton often has sunny winter days, but the days are short. Being outside during the daylight can help cheer you up and energize you.
  • Eat well. You will be warmer if your body has food energy to burn.
  • If your skin or lips become dry or parched from the cold and dry heat indoors, try using a moisturizing cream or lip balm, available in drugstores.
  • Dry indoor heat can cause minor dehydration, which in turn may lead to colds. Drink lots of water and try putting a container of water over your heat register to moisturize the air.
  • Wear sunscreen with a SPF of at least 15 if you're planning on being outside for long periods of time (>2 hours). Remember that you can get sunburn on a cold sunny winter day as well as in summer.
  • Even though it may be bright and sunny, the temperature can still be –20° Celsius in winter, so dress appropriately.
  • Take into consideration the wind chill factor. A cold wind can make a temperature of –10° Celsius feel like –25° Celsius or worse.
  • Be careful to avoid frostbite. This occurs when skin is exposed too long to freezing temperatures and blood circulation to that area stops. Be careful that your ears, fingers, toes and cheeks are covered, especially when there is a wind.
  • When you're driving outside of the city, always carry emergency supplies in your car, in case you become stranded. Emergency supplies should include a blanket, a source of heat (candle and matches), non-perishable food, a shovel and a flashlight.
  • In winter allow yourself extra time to cross the road, as cars may have difficulty stopping on icy roads.

When it's very cold...

When it's very cold out (below -20°C), you should make sure you're dressed properly if you're going outdoors. It may surprise you how quickly you feel chilled after stepping outside, especially at night.

Frost Bite is when skin and body parts freeze - depending on the severity, the consequences can range from discomfort all the way to the amputation of fingers and toes. In order to prevent this you should always wear gloves or mittens, and a hat or toque. If you're standing still (such as waiting for a boss), try moving around a bit (wiggling your fingers and toes) in order to keep the blood moving around your body.

Hypothermia is a very dangerous condition which occurs when the body's internal temperature drops below a certain point. Make sure that you're always properly dressed when you're outside, especially at very low temperatures, as being outside in only a t-shirt for a little as 5 minutes at -30°C can lead to both frost bite and hypothermia.

Don't worry though, there are very few days (usually less than 3 weeks per year) when it is this cold.

Winter Activities

Skiing is a great way to enjoy snow in the winter.

Edmonton's freezeway is a popular area for outdoor skating.

Even though it's cold, winter is a great time to enjoy the outdoors - although UAlberta also has a lot to offer if you're interested in indoor possibilities:

  • Try downhill skiing or snowboarding: there are four ski resorts located in the Edmonton area (Edmonton Ski Club, Snow Valley, Sunridge, and Rabbit Hill), and there are many world-class mountain resorts located in the Rocky mountains (about 3 to 5 hours away, by car or bus).
  • Ice-skating is beloved by many Canadians, and it's a great, relaxing way to get outside. The City of Edmonton operates many public skating rinks, and at certain ones you'll be able to rent ice skates.
  • Check out the winter city guide to see everything that's going on during winter
  • People in Edmonton like to celebrate winter - there are numerous festivals during the winter months