Winter

5 Big Winter Expenses That Could Freeze Your Budget

You never know what might happen when the snow starts to fall. Everyone should have a three- to six-month emergency fund for unexpected expenses, like when four feet of snow caves your roof in — God forbid, of course. While you can’t control life’s curveballs, you can prepare and perhaps avoid big winter expenses. Here’s how.

1. Broken Heating System

Cranking up the heat helps maintain a comfortable temperature in the home, but extreme cold can push a heating system to the max, causing it to quit on you at the worst time.

A basic service call to diagnose a problem can cost upward of $100 — mine was $95 earlier this winter when my system wasn’t working — and this doesn’t include the cost to fix any broken components. (Luckily mine didn’t require anything out of the ordinary. I got away with just the $95.) If your system is older and needs replacing, however, you’ll have to shell out thousands of dollars for a new one.

There’s no way to predict when a heating system will break, but getting a home warranty can help you deal with this unexpected cost. These plans — which cost about $400 to $500 a year — are like an insurance plan for your home’s major systems. If your appliances — water heater, plumbing, electrical, heating, and AC system — need a repair, give your warranty company a call and they’ll send a technician within their network to fix the problem. You just pay a flat $50 to $75 out-of-pocket service fee. If the technician can’t fix the heating system, your warranty company pays the replacement cost.

There are limitations, so make sure you understand how your plan works. For example, your warranty company may only replace the unit if you can show a record of annual tuneups. As such, it’s important to stay on top of things so you don’t restrict yourself when it comes time to take advantage of the warranty.

2. High Gas Bills

Maintaining a warm, cozy home in the winter often requires turning up the heat. But…

When to go on holiday to Mauritius

Due to the paradise island of Mauritius’ location so close to the equator, the country only experiences two seasons: summer and winter. Even in winter temperatures never drop below 21 degrees Celsius. There is a difference of approximately 4.3°C between the two seasons, so depending on whether you want a relaxing beach holiday or a more active escape, choosing the right month for a holiday to Mauritius should be done with care.

Summer in Mauritius runs from November to April, and whilst the temperature is gloriously warm, the summer season is prone…

The First Patented Down Jacket Was Inspired By The Near-Death Experience

Many of us couldn’t imagine enduring these chilly winter months without down jackets—they keep us warm without weighing a ton. The outerwear was first patented in the U.S. in 1940 by Eddie Bauer; it would become his most iconic and successful product and change the nature of his business, taking it from a local storefront to a nationally known brand. But he might not have come up with the idea if not for a scary near-death experience that occurred 80 years ago this month.

Bauer outside of his store at 215 Seneca, Seattle. Photo courtesy of the Eddie Bauer Archives.

Bauer was just 21 when he started his business in 1920, renting 15 square feet of space inside another man’s gun shop in downtown Seattle and stringing tennis rackets. According to company historian Colin Berg, Eddie Bauer’s Tennis Shop operated for about a year—just enough time for Bauer to save enough money to open his own storefront.

Bauer’s Sports Shop was a hunting, fishing, and sporting goods store, but Bauer was more than just a merchandiser, he was an outdoorsman, too, and developed gear based on his own needs and the needs of his clients. “If I didn’t trust the equipment, it wasn’t stocked,” he once said. “If I needed equipment that wasn’t available elsewhere, I developed it myself.” If you’ve ever played badminton, for example, you’ve used the shuttlecock Bauer developed and patented.

Bauer backed everything in his shop with a lifetime guarantee—a rare thing in the ‘20s, and something Bauer called “my greatest contribution to the consumer … that guarantee was part of what I sold”—and he only hired people who, like him, were adept at outdoor pursuits. “People knew that if something was in Eddie Bauer’s store, we had personally put it to a rugged test,” he said. His small shop was successful, with a reputation not just for quality goods but also a knowledgeable staff.

For someone who had a passion for hunting and fishing, owning an outfitting shop was the best thing ever: “My business was also my hobby,” Bauer said. “It was like one long vacation. I loved every bit of it.”

The shop might have stayed a small but successful business if not for a fishing trip Bauer took with his friend Red Carlson, a trapper from Alaska, in January 1935. The pair headed to a canyon in the Olympic Peninsula, where they fished for steelhead. That cold, snowy January day, their haul was 100 pounds, and they stripped off their heavy wool mackinaw jackets, climbing out of the canyon in just their wool shirts and long underwear.

The car was a mile away, and the 200- to 300-foot climb out of the river canyon was steep. As they hiked, Bauer—wet from his bag of fish and sweating profusely—began to fall behind his friend. When he reached the top of the canyon, he stopped and leaned against a tree to rest. “He was literally falling asleep on his feet, nodding off,” Berg says. “All that moisture froze in the cold and the snow, and he was getting hypothermic. He was in a bad way.”

Thankfully, Bauer was carrying a revolver. He pulled it out and fired two shots to alert his friend, who came back to get him and helped him to the car. If Bauer had been by himself, he might not have survived. But despite the scary experience, “he wasn’t about to give up winter fishing or hunting,” Berg says. “He realized what he needed was a really breathable, warm jacket that he wouldn’t have to take off when he was working strenuously in the…

15 Facts About Winter Weather

The start of the winter season is marked by holiday carolers, hot cocoa, and in some parts of the world, blustery weather. Whether you enjoy bundling up in your coziest gear or are already counting down the days until spring, here are 15 facts about what’s happening outdoors this time of year.

1. IT SOMETIMES SNOWS WHERE YOU LEAST EXPECT IT.

You wouldn’t be shocked to see snow on the ground of Siberia or Minnesota when traveling to those places during the winter months. But northern areas don’t have a monopoly on snowfall—the white stuff has been known to touch down everywhere from the Sahara Desert to Hawaii. Even the driest place on Earth isn’t immune. In 2011, the Atacama Desert in Chile received nearly 32 inches of snow thanks to a rare cold front from Antarctica.

2. SNOWFLAKES COME IN ALL SIZES.

The average snowflake ranges from a size slightly smaller than a penny to the width of a human hair. But according to some unverified sources they can grow much larger. Witnesses of a snowstorm in Fort Keogh, Montana in 1887 claimed to see milk-pan sized crystals fall from the sky. If true that would make them the largest snowflakes ever spotted, at around 15 inches wide.

3. A LITTLE WATER CAN ADD UP TO A LOT OF SNOW.

The air doesn’t need to be super moist to produce impressive amounts of snow. Unlike plain rainfall, a bank of fluffy snow contains lots of air that adds to its bulk. That’s why what would have been an inch of rain in the summer equals about 10 inches of snow in the colder months.

4. YOU CAN HEAR THUNDERSNOW WHEN THE CONDITIONS ARE RIGHT.

If you’ve ever heard the unmistakable rumble of thunder in the middle of a snowstorm, that’s not your ears playing tricks on you. It’s likely thundersnow, a rare winter weather phenomenon that’s most common near lakes. When relatively warm columns of air rise from the ground and form turbulent storm clouds in the sky in the winter, there’s potential for thundersnow. A few more factors are still necessary for it to occur, namely air that’s warmer than the cloud cover above it and wind that pushes the warm air upwards. Even then it’s entirely possible to miss thundersnow when it happens right over your head: Lightning is harder to see in the winter and the snow sometimes dampens the thunderous sound.

5. SNOW FALLS AT 1 TO 6 FEET PER SECOND.

At least in the case of snowflakes with broad structures, which act as parachutes. Snow that falls in the form of pellet-like graupel travels to Earth at a much faster rate.

6. IT DOESN’T TAKE LONG FOR THE TEMPERATURE TO DROP.

Don’t take mild conditions in the…