Every year, Canadians engage in a months-long war of attrition against winter weather. Put gloves on, and you win a round, add the windchill factor and you lose one. Efficient heating systems, one point, ice coating power lines, winter is back in the game again. And… touchdown! The entire month of February with temperatures below – 10 °C! Oh oh… global warming? Never mind, take glacial temperatures!

Each environment, no matter where on earth, presents challenges. For instance, in Puerto Iguazú, our clothes were stained with red clay that would turn into thick mud after each downpour. And every time I go to the seaside, I always feel I’m carrying out half of the beach in my shoes and my bag.

In Canada, we battle with salt—not common table salt but de-icing sodium chloride. “I’ve just spent an hour and a half of my precious free time trying to clean the hallway!” I complained to my mom over the phone. “The mats were full of salt.”

Much has been written about our “magical” Canadian winters, and people often picture themselves at home, in front of the fireplace, lazily sipping a mug of hot chocolate, watching snowflakes falling gracefully outside and slowly building up the kind of scenery featured on postcards and shared online.

And I can’t disagree—right after a significant snowfall, the scenery is pretty. Impractical, but lovely.

Unfortunately, a picturesque winter dreamland scenery “ages” as well as your average Disney teen pop star.

In their fight against winter, Canadians won the first round ingeniously, by spreading copious amounts of salt on the roads and sidewalks. It is a necessary evil to avoid slips and falls and to make ice melt faster.

However, in the long run, salt won the war. Spray-salt damage is evident everywhere. The roads and sidewalks are white, slushy and grainy, cars are covered in a thick layer of white powder. The harsh salt melts off your shoes and stains your clothes. The roads are bumpy, with huge potholes, and the asphalt is cracked because of the constant freeze-thaw cycles.

These days, our snowbanks are not the kind of pretty fluffy mountains on top of which you want to climb and make snowballs. No, snowbanks are half-snow half-salt—coarse black salt, that looks like gravel.

Urban fixtures disappeared months ago under mountains of ice, snow and salt, and at one point, we all decided we did not give a damn about them. We will find—and use—garbage cans, picnic tables, playgrounds and benches again in the spring. One day. Meanwhile, people seem to constantly stepping over something—puddles of slush, snowbanks, ice patches…

It’s hard to find beauty in this greyish and bleak scenery. But this is our reality.

Bags of Salt at the Supermarket
Bags of Salt at the Supermarket
Fresh Snow
Fresh Snow
Salt, Ice and Snow Melting
Salt, Ice and Snow Melting
Snowbank with Salt
Snowbank with Salt
Pothole
Pothole
Sidewalk and Salt
Sidewalk and Salt
Cracked Asphalt
Cracked Asphalt
Man Shoveling Snow
Man Shoveling Snow
Winter Flower
Winter Flower
Puddle of Water
Puddle of Water
Discarded Tim Hortons Cup
Discarded Tim Hortons Cup
Picnic Tables
Picnic Tables
Garbage Can
Garbage Can
Benches by the Bus Stop
Benches by the Bus Stop
Car That Has Been Parked There For a While...
Car That Has Been Parked There For a While…
Salt and Snow
Salt and Snow
Stepping Over the Snowbank
Stepping Over the Snowbank
Car Coated in Salt
Car Coated in Salt
Ice and Salt
Ice and Salt
Wooden Fence and Snow
Wooden Fence and Snow
Salt at the Curb
Salt at the Curb
Ice, Snow and Slush
Ice, Snow and Slush
Snowbank
Snowbank
Sidewalk
Sidewalk
No Nudity at the Convenience Store (Gee, Who Would Want To?)
No Nudity at the Convenience Store (Gee, Who Would Want To?)

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19 Comments

  1. Isa March 2, 2015 at 8:46 am

    I can’t imagine what would be the impact of salt on the environment. I really don’t want to browse online because I think it’s going to be too depressing… :-/

    Reply
    1. Zhu March 2, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      Wise decision. I did research for the article and yes, it’s depressing 🙁

      Reply
  2. Gagan March 3, 2015 at 1:15 am

    Well the thing about salt in snow is completely new to me, however I can’t help but express my shock that you have potholes in Ottawa.

    I have grown up in cities and towns with potholes, so no biggy! but at the same time I have grown up with a notion that there are no potholes in Canada.

    A bubble has been burst.

    Reply
    1. Zhu March 3, 2015 at 4:36 pm

      We have so many potholes here, it’s… bad. Seriously. We even vote “worst roads in Canada” (Carling, in Ottawa, close to my place, won several times in a row). Freeways are smooth, but city roads are awful. And it’s worst in Montreal.

      Reply
  3. Lynn March 3, 2015 at 6:51 am

    Great series – this is something I don’t usually think much about and I love these pictures that are a very-true capturing of late winter/early spring in Ottawa. It’s an ugly time of year.

    Reply
    1. Zhu March 3, 2015 at 4:36 pm

      Yes, we are all looking forward to… you know, not freezing??

      Reply
  4. N March 3, 2015 at 10:37 am

    When I miss Canada, I remind myself of WINTER. Then I take a dose of reality with pictures like yours. Thank you. (Today it’s cold here: 28°C… ha ha. Sorry!) 🙂

    Reply
    1. Zhu March 3, 2015 at 4:37 pm

      You… you… you have mosquitoes! 😆

      Reply
  5. Holly March 3, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    Couldn’t agree more. We have another 10cm falling here now. Joy of joys. Oh, and bonus – it is set to turn to freezing rain later!

    Reply
    1. Zhu March 3, 2015 at 4:37 pm

      Oh boy…

      Reply
  6. Bee Ean March 4, 2015 at 2:46 am

    Nantes has mild winter this year. I won’t complain because I didn’t even wear gloves or winter hat.
    I’m so eager for spring!

    Reply
    1. Zhu March 4, 2015 at 9:46 pm

      My mum has been complaining of the cold, especially in the morning… but she hates winter!

      Reply
  7. Martin Penwald March 4, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    I’ve heard on the CBC that this february was the coldest since 115 years. And it is probably linked to global warming, or, for better accuracy, climate change.

    Edmonton has bad asphalt too, but I think it is still worse in eastern Canada.

    Reply
    1. Zhu March 5, 2015 at 10:07 pm

      Montreal is worst than Ottawa, I think. What’s the worst road in Canada, dear expert? (Nunavut doesn’t count… oh wait, there are no roads, right?)

      Reply
  8. Christiane March 5, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    Ugh i have too much salt residue on my pants, jeans, and boots. I don’t bother clean them anymore , not until it gets warmer.

    Reply
    1. Zhu March 5, 2015 at 10:07 pm

      And cars… I wouldn’t bother either.

      Reply
      1. Christiane March 6, 2015 at 11:18 am

        ugh my car is so dirty !! My husband is pushing me to wash it but i told him i am waiting for beginning of Spring. Yes i am stubborn lol !

        Reply
  9. La Madame March 12, 2015 at 2:38 am

    Ouep, y’a pas que les beaux paysages blancs en hiver au Canada :/ Personnellement, j’avais emmené mes petites bottes “fancy” et je ne les ai presque pas mises parce que j’avais peur de les scrapper à cause du sel dans les rues 🙁 Remarque, c’est bien et nécessaire pour le bon fonctionnement en général! Tu imagines tout un hiver dans sel avec toute la neige qui tombe?!

    Reply
    1. Zhu March 12, 2015 at 4:35 pm

      Pas facile effectivement de trouver les bonnes chaussures par ce temps!

      Reply

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