Minnesotans are tougher.
My father, who has lived in north central Minnesota for all of his nearly 71 years, has said this many times, and I have always scoffed. “Tougher, maybe,” I’d think. “Or maybe just dumber.”
In particular, I’ve thought this many times since I’ve become a Minnesota transplant. Winters in northern Illinois are not as bad as the ones I experienced in my youth in a part of Minnesota that’s closer to North Dakota and Canada than it is to Iowa or Wisconsin.
But it turns out Dad is right. Lifelong Minnesotans are tougher.
The concept is called “cold weather acclimatization,” and G. Edgar Folk Jr. talked in Saturday’s Chicago Tribune about how 20 degrees doesn’t feel as bad in February (after months of cold weather) as it does in November. Folk is a professor emeritus of physiology at the University of Iowa, another place where winter is serious business.
“You train the skin. There are blood vessels there that keep the heat in,” Folk told the Tribune, noting that new residents have to start from scratch. “If you live in a northern climate, you’ve been getting a little bit of cold acclimatization every year.”
This implies transplants like me, who have been bragging about milder winters in Illinois for seven years, are wimps. We’ve lost some of our cold weather acclimatization. When a brutal season, like the Long Winter of 2014, strikes, we’re caught with our pants down, so to speak, and we spend a lot of time complaining about how cold our ninnies are.
You gotta hand it to those hearty Minnesotans (bravo, Dad, you’re one tough guy). But this phenomenon of cold weather acclimatization justifies all the complaints from us wimpy transplants, too (as my stepdaughter might say, “I’ll call the wah-mbulance for you”).