Winter City

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Winter City or Winter Cities is a concept for communities in northern latitudes that encourages them to plan their transportation systems, buildings, and recreation project around the idea of using their infrastructure during all four seasons, rather than just two seasons (summer and autumn).


The Livable Winter Cities Association was formed in 1982 by a group of people from across North America and once had chapters in Minneapolis, Ottawa and Anchorage. Members included cities, planners, architects, engineers and other interested persons from around the world. From 1982-2005, the Association organized conferences, published books and the quarterly magazine "Winter Cities". As a non-profit managed by a dedicated but small group of volunteers, the Livable Winter Cities Association, in the end, struggled to maintain its mission. The Association mission is revived now through the efforts of the Winter Cites Institute, whose members include municipalities, community leaders and design professionals from around the world.

In communities and regions where the concept of embracing winter has taken hold, it has made a dramatic impact on the lives of residents, especially in terms of improving winter livability, increasing tourism and strengthening the economy during what had been a traditional down time. The concept has been responsible for helping many communities see the opportunities that winter offers and helping many residents in the north acknowledge that winter can be an enjoyable time of year and that not everyone need move to warmer climes from November through May.

It has often been said that many communities in northern latitudes are living in denial of their northern climate. As evidence, they point to the fact that many northern cities are designed in much the same way that southern/warm-climate cities are designed.

The Winter Cities Institute[edit]

Northern communities or “winter cities” have great opportunities to mitigate negative effects of the winter season while reinforcing the many positive aspects to create a vibrant, sustainable and livable environment for a prosperous future. The sustainability of winter cities requires a creative approach that addresses the problems of snow and cold while enhancing the advantages, opportunities and beauty of the winter season. A positive approach benefits the attitudes of residents, and bolsters the community’s ability to attract new business and residents.

The mission of the Winter Cities Institute is to provide information, resources and networking opportunities for those who desire to make northern communities more livable and sustainable. Their goal is to be the best source for information, research, reports, plans and news about winter cities from around the northern world, focusing on how to make the best of the winter season.

The membership includes architects, planners, landscape architects, engineers, elected and appointed city officials, parks and recreation professionals, economic developers, and community leaders and activists interested in learning new approaches and exchanging success stories.

The Winter Cities Institute website offers a vast collection of materials about winter cities. A selection of resource materials is provided at no cost, however, membership provides access to the large library of the Winter Cities Institute.

Features of a Winter City[edit]

Winter is often perceived as a negative force that generates inconvenience and added cost, in part due to cities and buildings planned and constructed as if they were in a southern, warmer location.

City and town planning, site design, transportation and infrastructure engineering, and architecture can all benefit through the application of "Winter City" design principles that work with nature rather than against it, in order to make winter a positive part of a four-season lifestyle. The goal is to create livability, reduce human discomfort, promote energy efficiency and the economic sustainability of northern places.

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