Don’t Apologize for Winter- Celebrate It!

Winter. How do you feel about it? Winter is something that people grow to love, learn to tolerate, or come to dread. In a municipal setting, thoughts of winter immediately drift to the maintenance side of operations. Snow—salt it, sand it, shovel it, plow it, move it.

The Jibba Jabba Rail Jam in Houghton, MI

However, winter has a whole other aspect that can be embraced and showcased. There is even a movement and organization dedicated to its uniqueness. The Winter Cities Institute founder, Pat Coleman, states that any city, village, or crossroads can be a “winter community” if it incorporates the concepts. A winter city/winter community is defined by Coleman as:

“A concept for communities in northern latitudes that encourages them to plan their transportation systems, buildings, and recreation projects around the idea of using their infrastructure during all four seasons, rather than just two seasons (summer and autumn). A Winter City is one which has embraced winter in its planning, in its cultural offerings, and in its attitude. Generally speaking, winter offers both challenges and opportunities for northern communities. Those cities that accommodate winter are Winter Cities. Those cities that simply tolerate winter and do not accommodate it are Frozen Cities. The goal is to create livability, reduce human discomfort, and promote energy efficiency and the economic sustainability of northern places.” (

Downtown Holland Warming Station with heated sidewalks

Those of us in cold weather cities should welcome the possibilities of winter in an altogether different way. There are places in Europe that are teeming with activity in winter— people out and about in public spaces, continuing their entertainment and recreational activities throughout the cold and darkness of winter months. Part of the process in becoming a “winter city” is planning—buildings and public spaces designed with winter in mind; winter walkability; sustainability; and festivals, tourism, and recreation. We know that the knowledge workers of the 21st Century want great places to live that offer all the amenities they desire; we know they often choose a place to live then look for a job. If they want entertainment and walkability in their future homes, then it should be there, no matter the season.

The Traverse City Frozen Bed Races

* Adapted from my article in The Review

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  • Thx, Caroline.

  • Caroline Kennedy

    Absolutely! Our community embraces winter by providing a free ice skating rink for skating and hockey, a snowboarding/skiing hill, two tubing runs, access to ice fishing and more. Kids learn that hard work and effort are part of the fun, and it pays off with success and confidence–a commodity that lasts a lifetime and creates a positive contributor to society.