How to dress for Kazakhstan’s frozen winters

How to dress for Kazakhstan’s frozen winters

While lounging around last week in the Malaysian heat and air conditioning, I enjoyed watching Disney’s Frozen. The cold weather! Cold in any language!

Because, as in the lovely Between Shades of Gray, any fictional description of cold resonates with me right now. The frosty eyelashes. The wind-stilled faces. The freezing fingers. (The last book I tried to write for the kids in my library was about a snow dragon). And it’s -25 C (-13 F) outside as I write. From inside. With coffee in hand.

Right now I live in Astana, Kazakhstan, site of former Stalinist prison camps on the south Siberian steppe. That sounds quite grim, but it’s actually a lovely and lively city (see here for pics).  And it has me entertained to see the bustle across the American midwest as they prepare for severe cold and snowstorms.

Winter Wear

Winter Snow Gear for Astana

But on facebook, my mom’s friends are right – I have better gear than they do to weather the snow. My strategy, here, is: warm fur-lined boots and woolen socks. A down-lined coat with furry hood. Lined leggings and some type of light cardigan. A scarf to cover my chin and nose. A Yaktrax if it’s slippery outside (one works better than two, in case you need to traverse smooth pavement).

At -32 F the other day, I walked for about 15 minutes before my legs started to prickle with frost.  The only downside was mascara dripping from my face when the ice melted as I stepped inside (!), and the evident need for a second full layer of leggings. The really styling ladies, though, do it all in long mink coats with high-heeled boots (news article):

Fur coats in Vladivostok (credits/click for lovely post by Sweetridgesisters)

Enjoying the Weather

But however you do it, it is possible to go for a walk in extreme cold weather, if you’ve the clothes to bundle up warmly! Below, children and parents enjoy sledding from the riverbanks onto the frozen Ishim river. (In the distance, still specks are the men ice-fishing under plastic coverings…)


  1. It’s funny to contrast these scenes of “cold” with what we have in Pondicherry–which is one of those sites that raises the question “what is cold” in so much cultural detail We probably have a thousand words for hot, indeed, but maybe also as many for cold–which we know far less intimately, but fear far more. Wish I had a picture to share of folks in sweaters and scarves and camo-earmuffs (yes), which make up the season’s attire.. although it’s never really much cooler than light sweater weather, to use another cultural category to mark “cold.” 😉

    1. Cee

      So true! I’d love to see the picture of camo-earmuffs! I’d also find it interesting how one’s place in society determines the cold. I’m thinking of chilly weather in Texas where young men staunchly wear their shorts and t-shirts, & even of others who insist they ‘aren’t cold’ when it seems like they very much should be.

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