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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 nearly a decade of winters in Spokane, so we’re up to the task of answering all your questions about winter in Spokane!
Wondering what winter in Spokane will look like in 2021/22? Take a look at KREM’s forecast below – brrr!
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!
Snow typically arrives in Spokane in November, but it’s not unheard of to have a light dusting of snow in Spokane in October. Don’t worry, it melts!
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.
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 almost a decade’s worth of 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, or from local stores around Spokane.
We’ve also crowd-sourced these answers – let us know if you agree over on our Facebook page!
1) Emergency Kit for the Winter
The following kits are essentials, especially for Spokane in the winter. You can (and should!) keep one at home, one in your car, and get one specifically for your pets.
One thing not to mess with during the winter in Spokane? The wind. Unfortunately, heavy winds + snow + trees around Spokane usually conspire to take out power throughout Spokane, at least once during the winter.
Earlier in the winter of 2021, we lost power for almost a week! It was miserable and eventually we had to leave, but it would have been a lot better (and smarter) if we had a generator.
We prefer the dual fuel to have more options, but the best generator for your family is the one you’ll use!
Yes, generators might seem pricey at first, but just think of this: $700 on a generator is cheaper than 7 nights in a hotel because it’s below 30 and snowing outside – and getting progressively colder inside your house!
3) Snow Shovel
Plenty of people recommend getting a steel snow shovel, and most of the ones listed below 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.
Pro-tip: You have 48 hours to clear the sidewalk after it snows in Spokane. Just remember to clear your driveways and walkways before driving on them, as drive on them could pack in the snow and make it extra slippery!
4) Winter Car Essentials: Snow Brush and Scraper
Instead of using your credit card to clear the snow off your car, invest in a brush and scraper! These are wintertime car essentials, plus de-icer or non-clumping cat litter in case you encounter icy patches.
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 below, and 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 during the winter in Spokane, brushing your teeth, and then hopping into a nice and toasty bed.
Our favorite electric blanket 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) More Ways to Protect Your Car
If you don’t have a garage, that means your car is going to be outside in the elements. While you could definitely use your scraper and brush to clear it everyday, why not prevent it from getting snow in the first place with these snow covers?
8) Snow Blower
Do you have a big driveway or a lot of paths to clear? If so, you might just want to invest in a snow blower! These come in handy especially on those days where we get snow after snow after snow – it’s easy to just go outside and use the snow blower instead of getting bogged down with the shovel!
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 tires below are also good options, just make sure to get the right sizes for your vehicle!
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!
No matter how fast someone is going behind you, just make sure to go slowly and be careful, especially if you’re not used to driving in the snow. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
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!
You can always buy bottled water and keep it in your car (although it will freeze) or simply fill up a water bottle and keep it on you!
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. There are always plenty of things to do in Spokane, but if you’re going to be outside for any long period of time, definitely make sure to layer up and wear thick jackets.
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
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. We purchased Vitamin D gummies, and others have purchased sun lamps to combat the gloom – but check with your doctor if you are concerned!
Another negative? Losing power during the winter. That happens at least once a year, somewhere in Spokane. It’s due to the wind, or the icy weather, or even people hitting power poles if they slide out while driving.
It’s… not great to lose power when it’s freezing outside! It’s already happened to us (our first year owning a home here!) so we’ve now invested in a generator. It’s highly recommended you buy a generator, especially if you live in a house with above-ground power lines.
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.
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 (but seriously you might want a generator!)
What questions do you have for us about winter in Spokane? Reach out to us on our Facebook page here!