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One question we get pretty frequently, especially from people moving to Spokane from places like Arizona, California or Texas, is ‘what is winter like in Spokane?‘ It's a tough question to answer, particularly if you remember those horrible winters of 2008 and 2016. However, we've now survived a combined total of six winters in Spokane, so we're up to the task of answering all your questions about winter in Spokane!
Looking for more things to do in Spokane? Check out our best things to do in Spokane article here!
What is Winter Typically Like in Spokane?
This is probably the most frequently asked question (after ‘moving to Spokane‘) on various forums, and Everyday Spokane has already received a few times via email! Let's start with the basics: the average snowfall you can expect in Spokane in any given year.
According to Tom Sherry of KREM2 News, a local news station here in Spokane, average snowfall in Spokane is around 44 inches annually and typically falls over 34 days. That's a little less than 4 feet!
In terms of temperature, according to Weather.com, monthly averages for Spokane are:
- December: highs around 32 degrees, lows around 23
- January: highs around 34 degrees, lows around 25 degrees
- February: highs around 40 degrees, lows around 26 degrees
Also according to Weather.com, a record high of 60 degrees was recorded in Spokane in 1917 and a record low of -21 degrees in 1968 (which also has one of the worst winters in Spokane on record!).
How to Prepare for Winter in Spokane
Of course, this is assuming everything is ‘normal' in Spokane, which isn't always the case. For example, in 2019 we had a very mild winter all November, December and even January… until February came along and we were hit with the second snowiest February on record. In 2019, we received over 29.5 inches in February in Spokane – yes, more than half of our annual average!
And this doesn't even take into account the winters of 2016-2017 (60 inches of snow) or 2008-2009 (82.5 inches of snow)! I ended up living through the 2008-2009 winter of Spokane and… it was something. I didn't actually have snow tires and was able to make it around okay (although I don't recommend it) and surprisingly, I didn't lose power. However, flights (over the holidays) were canceled, I did a lot of walking and praying, and it was just generally a lot to deal with.
All of this to say: winters in Spokane are generally mild, but don't get complacent. If the news says we're going to get a lot of snow, prepare ahead of time and have water, food (non-perishable in case you do lose power), snow tires if you must do a lot of driving, and possibly a generator.
Your best bet is to hope for the worst and have a 72 hour emergency kit on hand at all times throughout the winter.
For those moving from Seattle, expect colder temperatures than Seattle and be prepared for snow. You'll also want to be careful of driving back and forth from Seattle to Spokane in the winter – chains are usually recommended for your car and at times it can be too dangerous to make the journey back and forth.
Must-Haves for Surviving Winter in Spokane
We've talked about how you'll want to prepare an emergency kit and get, at the very least, all-season tires if not snow tires to survive winter in Spokane. But what do people truly recommend?
After living here for six winters, we've broken down the absolute essentials for surviving winter in Spokane. You can get most if not all of these items on Amazon – if you haven't signed up for Amazon Prime yet, you can get a 30 day free trial using our referral code here!
We've also crowd-sourced these answers – let us know if you agree over on our Facebook page! You may want more than this – we've adjusted to the temperatures after two years now, and we don't need as many layers to stay warm. You may need less than this! But these are our recommendations:
1) Emergency Kit for the Winter
We specifically like this kit below because it has gloves, hand warmers, a hand crank radio and phone charger, plus a candle. All of this, in addition to more blankets and water, is a great start in case the power goes out for a day or two.
2) Mini Emergency Kit (keep this in your car!)
You're not always at home when a snow storm strikes in Spokane – they can come on suddenly, and you don't want to be caught with an emergency kit just in case. This one is perfect for keeping in your car. This is the one we take with us camping!
3) Snow Shovel
Plenty of people recommend getting a steel snow shovel, and most of the ones listed here will do the trick. This is for getting out of your garage, car port, cleaning off your front walk ways and the sidewalk in front of your home.
4) Snow Brush and Scraper
We love this combo snow brush and scraper set and have one each in our cars! The trick to getting out of the house relatively quickly and on time is hopping in your car, turning on the heat/de-fogger to full blast, then closing your door and getting to work brushing off the snow. After you've got most of the snow off your car, your car should be warming up and it should be easier to use the scraper side on your front and back windshields. Much more efficient than using an old credit or other plastic card in your wallet!
5) Thermal Long Johns!
When we first moved here, we were constantly cold in the winter – until we bought some thermal long johns. You can choose from a variety of options here, although we went for the thickest option we could. You'll want to live in your long johns, particularly on nights when it's snowing and all you want to do is eat soup and stay under the blankets!
6) Electric Blanket
There's truly nothing better than setting the electric blanket, brushing your teeth, and then hopping into a nice and toasty bed. The option below has a variety of heat settings and an auto-off function, which is helpful if you're like me and fall asleep before turning it off. Best of all? It's machine washable and dryer safe!
7) Kitty Litter
Why do you need kitty litter, especially if you don't have a cat? You'll find out once your car is stuck in snow and ice! Kitty litter is exceptionally helpful for those who park on side streets overnight or for several days, then need to get out and drive. Simply put the kitty litter around your tires and work to get some traction – then you're on your way! There's no need to get expensive kitty litter – just make sure to avoid anything very fine. You can find several kitty litter options here.
Plus, the benefit of kitty litter vs. sand is that if you don't use it all up during the winter, you can always donate it to a local shelter like SCRAPS or SpokAnimal. Or save it for next year!
8) Pet First Aid Kits
If you do have pets at home, make sure they're taken care of too in the event of an emergency, disaster – or even if you're just going out hiking or camping with them. We bought this one when we took our dog camping and, even though we didn't have to use it, it was still piece of mind (plus, extra bandages if you need them yourself!). This version comes with an emergency collar, blanket, a carrying pouch, which makes it easy to take with you.
9) Snow Tires
When asked about tire recommendations, suggestions poured in! The overwhelming response was that you do need snow tires in Spokane. As much as you can ‘get away with' all-season tires in Spokane (as I admit I have!), it's overall not recommended. Basically, it's not as easy to maneuver or stop as quickly if you do not have snow tires, and with the ice that Spokane typically has on the roads, that's a major concern.
You can get tires at Discount Tire, Costco, and other automotive shops around Spokane. The two below (the Bridgestone and the Michelins) came highly rated from Spokane drivers, but get the best tires for your car and your price range.
Always remember to drive slow when it snows or is icy! It always surprises us how fast the Spokane drivers go in inclement weather, when typically when the sun is shining, they go very, very slow. It's almost like they enjoy speeding when it's snowy outside! That is highly inadvisable – go slow, be cautious, leave plenty of room in front of you when driving, regardless of what kind of tires you have. Snow tires will not make you invincible!
Whether you're at home, driving, or at work, make sure you always have water with you. Particularly if you get stranded while on the road, you will want and need water! We recommend this 64 oz bottle from Manna – we actually got ours at Costco, so be sure to check if you have a Costco membership, otherwise you can purchase it below.
Why 64 ounces? It's better to have more water with you than less, and this bottle holds plenty of water for half a day for one person. It also keeps cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot, making it the perfect year-round reusable water bottle.
Advice From People Who Didn't Grow Up in Snow
Both Blake and I didn't grow up in snowy climates – we grew up in Phoenix, AZ, which is the complete opposite of ‘snowy winter.' More like 60 degrees and balmy! That said, it didn't take us long to adjust to winter in Spokane. Here are our top tips for those of you who aren't accustomed to living in the snow:
- Get yourself some good snow boots and a good jacket – we like Columbia gear, North Face, etc. Get yourself something with a hood, to cover your head when you're outside or shoveling the sidewalk. Get some good snow boots – we like boots from REI because you can try them out while you're there!
- Get a garage, if you can. If you're shopping for a house in Spokane, we can't recommend having a garage or at least a carport enough! There's a major difference between how Blake's car looks (his is under a carport) and mine (mine is out in the elements). It's unpleasant to have to brush snow and scrape ice off your car, particularly if you're running late. Of course, not everyone can have a garage or carport, but if you have the option – take it!
- Get a ‘winter beater'. Spokanites all know about ‘winter beater' cars. Those are the old cars or trucks that only come out during the winter, because they're old, hardy, and no one really cares what happens to them. If you have an extra vehicle, consider turning it into a ‘winter beater.'
- Spokane doesn't do a great job of plowing residential roads, due to cost. However, you can expect the major roads to be clear of snow, so if you can get out of your residential neighborhood, you'll be fine!
- It IS cold if you spend a long time outside, even if you're wearing a jacket. We don't make it a habit to spend a ton of time outdoors in the coldest months of the year here (December – February). Of course, it's fun to walk around downtown Spokane and see the tree, skate on the Ice Ribbon, and attend winter events in Spokane, and as long as you're moving, it's bearable. Luckily, downtown Spokane offers a lot of indoor opportunities (go inside for a coffee at the Ice Ribbon, use the sky bridges to get around the mall, etc.), so you shouldn't find downtown Spokane too unpleasant. Personally, I wouldn't take a ‘winter hike' below 32 degrees – but some people do here!
Positives of Snowy Spokane Winters
Even though we tend to hibernate a little more here in the winter, there is still plenty to do if you want to head outside! Some notable winter activities around Spokane include:
- Visiting Northern Quest Casino, Spa, RV Resort and more
- Skiing at Schweitzer!
- Viewing the museum collections at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture
- Visiting the art collection at the Jundt Art Museum on Gonzaga's campus
- Eagle watching cruises on Lake CDA
You can find even more fun outdoor winter activities in Spokane here.
Cons of Snowy Winters in Spokane
Our coverage of winter in Spokane wouldn't be complete if we didn't include some of the cons of living in Spokane during the winter. After all, if you're considering a move to Spokane, you need to be informed about the positives and the negatives! One of the biggest cons is the gloomy weather in Spokane.
In fact, reporting from KREM2 News shows that Spokane was ranked the ‘4th most depressing' winter in the country. Topping the list were Anchorage, Seattle, and Portland, with Missoula rounding out the top five. This was mainly due to lack of sunshine, which is of course a major concern and contributes to SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you do start to feel a winter gloom, you could invest in a light therapy lamp to get more ‘sunshine' or take additional vitamin D (we have the Olly Vitamin D gummies below).
Of course, if you do feel gloomier than normal, please consult with your doctor! We are not doctors and what works for us may not work for you. If you are looking for a doctor in Spokane, we highly recommend reaching out to Direct Primary Care here.
Overall Opinion of Winters in Spokane
Overall, winters in Spokane are not terrible! I have lived in Denver, CO and the winters in Denver are by far much worse than the winters in Spokane. My parents have lived in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and both of them have visited Spokane in the winter – hands down, winters in Pennsylvania are worse than winters here.
Of course, winter in Spokane is not like winter in Phoenix, or Texas, or Southern California… but if you're considering a move to Spokane, you probably already knew we get snow here! And if it makes you feel better: it's typically not that bad.
What questions do you have for us about winter in Spokane? Reach out to us on our Facebook page here!