How to survive a South Dakota winter

A few weeks ago, I caught a glimpse of the harsh weather that South Dakota winters will inevitably bring to our campus in a few short weeks. The temperature that day hovered just above freezing, yet the wind chill made the air feel far colder. My entire body was shaking as I quickly walked across campus to classes and meals, even though it wasn’t terribly cold per South Dakota standards. 

It’s shocking the first time you feel the bite of the winter wind that violently flows across the Great Plains, so I’d suggest to anyone that hasn’t yet lived through a South Dakota winter to heed my following advice (you’ll be a walking icicle if you don’t.)

The first rule of surviving a South Dakota winter is to wear layers. Seriously, mummify yourself. If you do not look like a marshmallow walking across campus with beady little eyes peeking out between your hat and your (hopefully large) scarf, you’re not dressed properly. 

The mummification process prevents you from becoming the aforementioned walking icicle and blocks out the skin burning, bone-chilling wind that will plague you as you march across campus to receive your higher education. If you don’t mummify yourself, the following will happen:

  1. You will be very cold and will regret not mummifying yourself as I suggested.
  2. Your skin will become red and chapped as the wicked wind laps against your skin.
  3. Your now red, chapped skin will begin to burn the moment you enter a building.
  4. You will remain permanently chilled for the remainder of the day.

Sounds super fun, right?

Aside from mummifying yourself, I would also suggest investing in a bottle of good lotion. Even those who strictly adhere to the mummification process experience extremely dry skin in the winter months. The short explanation for this is that the humidity drops drastically in the winter months which causes the moisture within your skin to evaporate far more quickly, leading to exceptionally dry skin. Also, the wind that South Dakota is blessed with exacerbates this dryness. Trust me, a good bottle of lotion will save you countless hours of pain. I truly don’t know how some people can survive without it during the winter.

As I’m sure you’re all aware, another thing that comes with winter besides the cold is snow. Snow is a truly beautiful thing when it cascades slowly through the sky, making the world look like the inside of a snowglobe. However, it can also be quite irksome. 

Not only does it pile up and have a tendency to create extremely dangerous road conditions (keep this in mind when going out this winter), but it also has the ability to soak through any non-waterproof clothing you’re wearing. This will not be a huge problem unless you either slip and fall into the snow or simply have a burning desire to roll around in the snow to make snow angels. 

If you do manage to fall into the snow, I’d suggest changing clothes ASAP, as your clothes will literally freeze. You should also invest in a pair of boots as they will provide traction to keep you from falling on your butt and will keep snow out of your shoes (unless we are blessed with over a foot of snow, which happens occasionally).

While South Dakota winters have a tendency to be exceptionally brutal, I swear they’re not that bad. As long as you are well prepared for the snow and extreme cold, you’ll find that there are a lot of fun winter activities to take part in, such as skiing and ice skating. Even if you don’t fall in love with winter weather, I’m sure you’ll find that the spirit permeating throughout the community during the winter months is enough to make you cherish some part of winter.  

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