No rain, no gain: You can be sporty through the PNW winter
Winter in the Pacific Northwest is a time of rain, cold and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is especially jarring when one isn’t from here, but it can still be tough for locals. For some a heavy shower can put to bed any hopes of a day spent outdoors, but there’s no need to be so hasty. To better understand how to face the frigid, further examination is required.
The Willamette Valley provides the perfect conditions for rainfall that continues for months at a time. The Coastal mountain range sits west and the Cascades to the east, which causes rain systems to get trapped in the valley. To adapt, many residents welcome rain, as wishing for dry weather is futile.
Catherine Myerson (‘24), who grew up in Tualatin, Oregon, said that the best way to survive the winter somewhat happily is to “embrace it.” She added, “Instead of being like, ‘Damn it's not sunny, I hate it, be like, ‘Oh my god, yay, I’m gonna get all cozy in bed, read a book or find a show I really like.’ … Make your inside space a place you actually want to be in.” Myerson also likes to go out and do “classic winter outdoor activities, like [going to] pumpkin patches, [seeing] Christmas lights … or playing soccer.” She even noted, “[Soccer] is way more fun to play in the rain.”
Though it’s important to stay warm, the misconception that rain makes people sick is often a hurdle to jump. It’s lovely to stay indoors, as Myerson noted, but it is also completely safe to brave the rain and doing so is necessary.
Umbrellas are useful despite the mild judgment you may receive from locals, and rain jackets are a must. Myerson found that decent rain jackets can be found for cheap at local thrift stores. Water repellent does wonders for the rain, but not much for the cold, so layering is the name of the game. It’s imperative to begin with a good base layer and add from there, depending on the temperature. For the coldest days, follow the “base, warmth, outer” layer formula. Start with a light long sleeve, continue with a warm, insulating middle layer and end with a shell layer that shields from the rain and wind.
Nate Rutter (‘24), from Portland, Oregon, advised that for daily activities, wearing a short-sleeve shirt is best. He claimed, “If you wear a long sleeve, it’s really easy to get really hot and it’ll cause you to want to take off your layers faster, which will then make you cold five minutes later. Consistently doing a short-sleeved shirt with a moderately dense hoodie or sweatshirt and if it goes below 40 [degrees] adding a puffer … will insulate all that heat you have.”
Sports are a great way to get outside year-round, regardless of the dimness of the season. Around campus, there are many opportunities to get outside, socialize and reduce the sadness that seeps through your body like the rain through your clothes. While certainly not a cure-all, exercise through sport can help ease negative feelings and mental states, including those brought on by our beloved gray weather. Willamette Club Soccer, Willamette Rugby and Ultimate Frisby practice rain or shine. If team sports don’t work, go on a walk, or as Myerson suggests, “re-enact dramatic movie scenes in the rain.”
Winter in the Pacific Northwest is tricky to navigate. These suggestions are meant to help but aren’t an exact science. However, you’re a northwesterner now, so while the endless cloud cover may take some getting used to, layer up and get after it!