The Infamous Michigan Winters: Are They Really That Bad?

Perspective of a student from Southern California.

By Annabelle Marenghi December 13, 2022
The Infamous Michigan Winters: Are They Really That Bad?

Ah, the joys of attending college in the Midwest. Coming to the University of Michigan from out of state – more specifically, Southern California – I was petrified for the seemingly infamous Michigan winters. My relatives, friends, teachers, and coworkers would all joke about “whether or not I was ready.” My Californian mom stuffed my suitcase with a 100-pack of hand warmers to send me off with. Now, having endured one full Michigan winter already and gearing up for the next, I am able to report back and answer every out-of-state’s burning (no pun intended) question: Are the winters really that bad? 

The short answer: no. As far as temperature goes, the winter chill was everything I dreaded and worse. However, experiencing real seasons is magical and amazing, as long as you prepare yourself correctly. Here are some of the best tricks I have learned for surviving, and more importantly, making the absolute most of a real Michigan winter.

  1. All about layers: This might seem obvious, but having several layers of warmth will be your best friend in the cold weather. I usually start with a T-shirt or tank top, followed by a hoodie or sweater, and sometimes a second fleece layer if it’s particularly cold, then finally my outer winter coat. On the worst winter days, it’s typical to layer two pairs of pants. Coming from a very consistent climate at home, the Midwestern weather is far more unpredictable and varies greatly even over the course of a single day. Layers are crucial not only in order to adjust to dramatic temperature changes throughout the day, but additionally for the transitions between walking outside and stepping inside to heated classrooms and buildings.
  2. Hands. Feet. Head: Keeping your extremities warm will make a bigger difference than the thickest coat in the world. Invest in a good pair of gloves (the ones with the finger-pad ability to use your phone are awesome), bring a couple of warm hats, and most importantly, socks. I can think of a number of occasions when I was outside in the cold and while my body was well-layered, if I was wearing thin socks, my day was over. Keeping your feet, hands, and head protected is one of the best ways to stay warm in the winter.
  3. Stay active: One of the best ways to stay warm in the winter is to keep moving. When the weather is really cold and snowy, it can be tempting to just stay inside and hibernate. However, I have found that going for a well-bundled walk or jog, or even just taking a stroll around campus, always helps to keep my body temperature up. Walking with a friend and a warm coffee has become one of my favorite things to do in the winter, taking in the crisp air and beautifully snow-covered sights around Ann Arbor.
  4. Take advantage of campus: When the weather is simply too cold to spend the day outside, the U-M campus is full of indoor spaces to escape the wind and snow. The libraries, campus cafes, and gyms all have plenty of warm, cozy spots to study, relax, and hang out with friends. In the Union on a cold day, the staff turn on big fireplaces in the center of the rooms for a cozy study backdrop, a warm contrast to the weather outside. My personal favorite activity is going to the Yost Ice Arena to ice skate with friends!

In sum, the infamous Michigan winters are nothing to be afraid of. Rather, the cold and snow is cause for celebration, as long as you learn to dress warmly and find ways to both take advantage of the cold weather and safely stay out of it. I have come to embrace the change of seasons for these incredible four years of my life at the University of Michigan, and I am certain that you will too.

Annabelle Marenghi

Annabelle Marenghi is a sophomore in the College of Literature, Arts, and Sciences, pursuing a major in English and a minor in entrepreneurship. She is from San Diego, California. At school, Annabelle is involved in her sorority and several of the outdoors clubs at the University of Michigan. She loves to travel, and is planning to study abroad for the 2023-2024 academic year. In her free time, you can find Annabelle surfing, cooking, or hiking with her dog.