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StephenVance 270We might officially be more than a month away from the start of the winter season, but over the past week Mother Nature has made it known – winter starts now.

The past week has left no doubt that we have traded in the sounds of lawn mowers and street sweepers for the sounds of snowblowers and plows, and we have certainly traded in our shorts and sandals in favour of warmer garb.

In recent years municipal governments in these parts have been able to save a bit on their snowplowing budgets in November and December, but this year with the early start to the season, and given the longer-range forecasts I have read, it is looking as if municipalities will need their full winter road maintenance budgets this year.

The return of winter weather even if a little early is no surprise to Canadians – we are a hardy bunch after all. In fact, in my travels around the globe, the only folks I've personally encountered that handle winter weather better than we Canadians are the Russians, who embrace winter like a favourite old sweater that they couldn't wait to finally pull out of the closet.

Local garages have been busy in recent weeks swapping out summer tires for winter tires, and the recent snowfall will no doubt prompt the procrastinators to head to the already busy garages. While I already have my snow tires installed, I did notice on Monday when I was brushing the snow off my car that the scraper on my snow brush is cracked, so I'm not as prepared as I thought I was for the coming weather. Thankfully that is a quick, easy, and cheap fix, but not everything related to winter is as easy on the wallet; winter, you see, is good for our economy. We Canadians spend a small fortune on winter, and not just on our vehicles. Heavy coats and warm boots are costly but necessary items for any Canadian, and that's just the beginning of our winter expenses. From the added cost for heating our homes, to outdoor leisure activities like skiing or snowshoeing, living in a cold climate like ours costs us money.

While living in a cold climate might be costly, one benefit is that we are a tough bunch and we don't let a little bit of bad weather alter our plans. That winter spirit, while admirable, also gets us into some trouble as we can all feel far too confident when faced with the worst that Mother Nature can toss our way. As a result we tend to drive more quickly than we really should, and we can take chances that we shouldn't, and sometimes those chances end in collisions, and those collisions can be deadly.

So, with winter weather now having knocked and burst through the door, we all need to ensure that we are prepared, and we need to remember that it's time to slow down on the roads and save that aggressive energy for the pick-up hockey game or for an outing on snowshoes.

Finally, I normally save this bit of advice (well, it's more of a pet peeve to be honest) for my Rants & Raves column in our print paper, but I receive so many requests to issue this reminder every year, that I thought this year, I would offer it here – brush the snow off your dang car! There is nothing worse than driving behind a vehicle whose driver has failed to brush the snow, and as a result you are blinded by a virtual blizzard of snowflakes from the car ahead. Worse yet is when a chunk of ice that has built up from days or weeks of failing to clear snow and ice from a vehicle flies off and lands on your windshield. Properly clearing the snow from your vehicle takes just a few minutes, and while it can be frustrating (and chilly), if this broken down old cripple can do it, you can too.

Enjoy the early start to winter weather, and for those not looking forward to it, this might be comforting – it's only a little over four months until Spring arrives.


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