Winters in Chicago – Are They THAT Bad?

When I decided to matriculate at Booth and delivered the happy news to my family, I was met with some concern. Sure, my parents knew Booth is an amazing program and were very excited for me personally and professionally, but one thing weighed heavily on them, the weather.


“Isn’t Chicago super, like super-duper cold?” – my parents asked wearily. While my family never visited Chicago, they had a vision of the city based on TV and pop culture imagery. As they were born in the ex-USSR, they knew all about cold. My family remembered getting snowed in and was worried about my MBA experience, dramatizing it to sound like a natural disaster movie. The cold my parents grew up with was one that I could not even imagine, as I spent all my life in the sunny climes of Tel Aviv in Israel, with temperatures NEVER dropping below a very pleasant 50F/10C.

So, when I moved to Chicago in July of 2016, I did not really know what to expect, but I was not worried. While I realized that I was probably in for a ride, I kept hearing from alumni that the weather is not as bad and that the city is flourishing despite it.

Well, I must say that 1.5 years into my MBA, the cold really has not been as bad as expected. I know it might sound strange with the apocalyptic weather reports floating around us, but it’s nevertheless true. I feel that with smart city design, tech advancements, and a positive attitude – Boothies win over the winter and live full, happy lives. Personally, I relied on those tactics and they actually turned wintertime to a season I enjoy, and trust me, that’s a first for a beach gal like myself. So, without further ado, here are my three secret weapons of dealing with the Chicago weather—explained:

First, the Pedway
Chicago’s downtown pedestrian system lies in the core of the city. This system of underground tunnels connects 40+ busy blocks in the downtown area, across 5 miles. In my perspective, the Pedway is like a “tunnel mall” filled with shops, eateries, public transportation, and businesses. Since my building is situated right on top of the Pedway, I use the Pedway quite frequently. It’s very clean and secure, and I’m happy about the ability to go about my business—whether it’s going a friend’s house or getting food—without even having to put on a sweater. And let me tell you, it’s a strange feeling to go out and about wearing just a t-shirt (Booth one, obviously) when it’s snowing outside.  Fun fact: The Pedway is such a key factor of Chicago that it even hosts its own walking and food tours, showing locals and tourists alike all the marvelous opportunities this underground powerhouse has to offer.

Second, boss gear
Well, this is not Chicago specific, but only since arriving to the US have I learned how advanced winter apparel has become, and at fairly reasonable prices. Thanks to my awesome winter coat that features smart materials and techy innovations (see Exhibit A), I stay warm all day. Funnily, I actually wear fewer layers today in Chicago than I ever did in Israel, as I move around comfortably in my day-to-day life. The biggest asset here is obviously the gear, but also the community of second-year Boothies who were really helpful in gearing up for the cool season, providing suggestions and recommendations to make sense out of weather that was unimaginable for me as a Middle-Eastern. When winter finally arrived in town, I was fully equipped and ready to tackle it fearlessly.

Third, it’s all about the attitude
Chicago is very dynamic and delightful, even in the coldest of wintery days. Pursuers of winter wonderland activities, Chicagoans don’t allow Mother Nature to stop them from enjoying life to the fullest—whether it’s on the ice skating rink, out at Navy Pier, watching/playing sports, or taking in a museum. Since arriving to Booth, I embraced this approach fully, and believe that it is a key component in breezing through the wintertime. It’s all about maintaining a normal routine with a smile, continuing to pursue activities and adventures, and not forgetting the ear warmers!

Exhibit A: Me all bundled up in my boss winter gear for St. Paddy’s Day dyeing the river green, with Booth’s Gleacher Center in the backdrop. It was a very chilly day, and a very fun one nonetheless!

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