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How to survive winter in Moscow


If you believe in some Hollywood films, Moscow in winter is covered in huge snowdrifts, the oil in car engines freezes, and Muscovites themselves are only saved from the frost by thick coats, huge fur hats and vodka, naturally. In actual fact, the real difficulties of Moscow winter are not primarily related to frost.       

The main problem with Moscow winter is not the cold, but rather the thaw that suddenly happens a few times per season. During the days when the temperature unexpectedly goes above freezing point, snow accumulated on lawns and road verges quickly begins to melt, forming huge puddles on the pavements. That is why those intending to go to Moscow in winter should first and foremost see to have waterproof footwear.

Ice is the second difficulty that lies in wait during winter in Moscow. When the cold hits again after a brief warming, the street turn into an ice-rink. In the mornings when the street cleaner has not yet managed to apply de-icing agents to the pavements, you should move with extreme caution, especially on stairs leading up to shops or down into underground subways where ice melts extremely quickly and falling over can be most painful. Anti-slip footwear is the saving grace.

De-icing agents also bring their own problems. The chemicals used to clear the streets corrode the ice effectively but also act on footwear and dogs’ paws. Winter shoes or boots in Moscow rarely serve more than a couple of seasons. In winter it is best to protect pets’ paws by covering them in special dogs’ shoes that are sold in any pet shop.

Icicles are another problem caused by the same unpleasant peculiarity of Moscow’s climate – periodic warming. Workers regularly remove lumps of ice accumulating on the roofs of buildings, with special signs on the buildings to warn about the danger. Over the last few years the walls have even been equipped with special obstructing barriers indicating the distance at which one should pass the building due to the danger of falling ice. However it is worth being careful in any case and at least pay attention to the warning signs and glance up at roofs when moving on Moscow’s streets.

During warm winters you may rarely see snow, due to the large number of cars and active use of de-icing agents on Moscow’s streets. Basically a thin layer of mud slushes under the wheels of the cars. In such conditions, inexperienced drivers are in no hurry to change their summer tyres, and even more so all-season tyres, for winter tyres. This is a big mistake because the situation can change literally within half an hour. Cooling and snowfall make the streets turn into sheets of ice in a couple of hours and an accident is practically inevitable without winter tyres.

As for extreme cold snaps, they certainly do occur in Moscow, but only once every 5-6 years. It happens that the temperature falls to -30 to -35 degrees Celsius. Then, of course, it is necessary to take the cold seriously: dress warmly, do not stay outside too long, use a protective moisturiser on your face, and comfort yourself with the fact that it will not be for long. Generally, such harsh cold does not stay in the Russian capital for more than a week.