Storytelling time: My First and Scariest Winter Slip-And-Fall Incident


By: Giselle General

So this happened during my first winter here in Edmonton, back in 2008. There’s a lot of things to learn and navigate and get used to. I learned that winter looks and feels different in different provinces. Things are starting to settle after moving here in July. I have a stable retail job, and I’m earning enough money at the time, I started dating someone who I fondly called my first Canadian boyfriend. And I am navigating all the different schedules and routines I need to do so I can go to the two schools I’m attending which is the University of Alberta and also McEwan University which was called at the time Grant McEwan College.

I worked the closing shift in the retail store where I was working, which is Future Shop at the Terra Losa business centre. It is located on 95th Ave and 172nd St and commuting in the evening was tricky at the time. You have two choices: be lucky and take the bus that is coming along less frequently from the area to the mall and then catch the bus from the mall to our house on the West End. Or if there are no longer buses that are passing through the business centre , take a 25 to 30 minute walk from the store to West Edmonton Mall, through the mall, to the transit station along 87th Ave. This walk is actually nice and refreshing most of the time, especially in the fall or spring or summer months. But winter is a whole different ball game.

Concrete parking lot covered in ice.
This is how the parking lot was like in terms of icyness, but at night!

You see, at the back of this giant mall, West Edmonton Mall, there’s an overflow parking lot along 90th Ave where people can park their cars if the multi level parking areas all around the mall are too full. Essentially I’d walk through a residential neighborhood , walk through that parking lot, cross to into the mall, walk through the mall, and then get out on the side of the mall where the transit station is.

The thing is in the winter, this parking lot is like a giant, giant ice rink. The reality is, if lots of snow falls into the ground and if left untouched by snowplows, trucks or snowblowers, that pile of snow – however many inches it is – it gets packed down. Then, if in a couple of occasions the weather gets warmer the surface layer of the snow melts a little bit and it becomes ice and that can happen over and over. Cars would not have a difficult time navigating the parking lot because they have tires. It might be a bit slippery driving around but that’s pretty much it. However for people on their feet it gets a bit more tricky.

That night, I decided to walk from my workplace to the mall because it was a night that is not too cold so I thought I can handle it. I’m still dressed for the weather though, I have my nice long winter coat that we bought not too long ago from Winners , and I have this really nice and warm knitted hat that I got from my cousin’s and aunt’s place in Ontario. It’s really thick, thicker than most hats. And it is really cozy with a nice little flower knitted on the brim.

Woman wearing a black winter jacket, multi color scarf and white knitted hat with a yellow knitted flower.

As I left the residential area of Summerlea, passing through the playground and entered the parking lot I realize I’m in big trouble. There are hardly any cars around, there’s the very faint light from the street light switch was not helpful in helping me identify where is a section of the parking lot that is the least icy. You know, how you can usually differentiate between the really really slick shininess of an icy sidewalk and the pathway where it’s just snow that is a little bit bunched up but you might have more traction. That night was not my lucky night.

So I did the only thing I can do . I started walking baby steps, little tiny steps to get as close and to get across as quickly as possible. Here’s the tricky thing. I am very aware what time the bus I’m taking will be departing, 9:58 PM. If I do not catch the bus, since it’s already almost 10:00 PM, I need to wait one full hour for the other bus before I can get home. So I’m conflicted! I need to walk slowly because it’s so icy and scary but at the same time I have this bus I need to catch . I’m so happy that there’s no one else in that parking lot because every three steps I would slip a little bit and scream!

I was about halfway through when, I suppose, my balance was a little bit off, because I slipped and fell forwards. I was really afraid I’m gonna slam my face onto the icy pavement. However because my hat was a lot thicker than most hats I actually had a cushion. I did fall face first, but it was my forehead that hit on the ground. I was lying there in shock for a second or two . And I realized I was not bleeding, I wasn’t hurt, no scratches or bumps on my face and I was so shocked and relieved. Then slowly but surely I rolled over on to my back, tried to sit up and struggled because even my hands cannot grip anything because everything is so slippery. And I slowly stood up and continued walking . By the time I crossed the parking lot and reached the sidewalk along 90th Ave I was overjoyed. I moved on to enter the mall through Bourbon Street the restaurant area tried to run and walk and shuffle through the mall to catch my bus.

The next day I woke up in pain and was very scared. My neck hurts! I could not even pinpoint where that came from. Because I arrived home late in the evening I didn’t get a chance to tell anybody what happened the night before. Over breakfast I went into the main floor of our house and talk to my aunt and I told her what’s happening with my neck. She was very worried and for good reason. During the vehicle accident in my childhood where my parents and sister were killed, my brother and I were not left unscathed. My major injuries consisted of a lot of wounds causing a lot of blood loss, and a fractured skull. So my aunt was really worried that it might have something to do with my head again, even if it’s been a couple decades since my injury . Then, I told her about the slip and fall I had the night before. Now she was even more worried! She told me to go to a doctor ASAP, because my slip and fall might have affected my head and she said that it actually might be a concussion. Now here’s the thing, I haven’t heard of the word concussion before so I was even more scared and it sounded really serious.

While enduing my neck that was hurting, I took some painkillers and went to school. For this day my classes were at the University of Alberta. I discovered that there is a medical clinic there that students can go to, which is such a relief. So in between my classes, I went to the Student Union Building on the 2nd floor, and try to see a doctor. I’ve never been to this building before, I’ve never been to this clinic before, so I quite don’t know what to expect.

I didn’t have to wait very long and when I told the doctor what is happening how I’m feeling and what happened that might be related. He asked a few questions, touched my head a couple times, and said he doesn’t seem to see get it was anything really serious. And he introduced a brand new word to me. Whiplash! As it turns out, a whiplash can happen when you experience a strong incident like slipping and falling that can cause muscles or joints in other parts of your body to feel tension and be hurt. I was told to take painkillers, take it easy on myself, and wait it out. If I’m still feeling dizzy (if ever), if my neck or my head or other parts of my body are hurting, then I could go back for further help.

A couple days after, I was chatting with my boyfriend at the time. We’re hanging out in his apartment. He is born and raised in Canada so he has experience with a lot of winters both in Alberta and BC where he was from. I told him what happened, I told him what the doctor said , and he said that makes a lot of sense.

Outdoor sidewalk shovelled clearly of snow during winter.

It wasn’t only until a few years after when I learned about the “Penguin walking technique”. I think I saw something about it on social media. I mentioned it to the new boyfriend I was dating then, the guy who ended up being my husband. He said that makes a lot of sense. I told him about the slip and fall incident and how that’s very scary for me. So now, every time we walk around and there is a potentially slippery and icy area he would remind me of the Penguin walking technique, hold my hand and we’ll walk through together.

I think this is the reason why icy sidewalks and roads caused me a lot of stress and anxiety when walking around in the winter. This is particularly important for me as well, as a person who cannot drive. A couple of years ago, there is now an app launched by the City of Edmonton, where you can report icy sidewalks and piles of snow and windrows. Which in many ways is nice. But I really hope that everybody, from policy makers, to building owners, to parking lot owners, to home owners, to ensure that there is at least one straight path that is wide enough, safe enough, accessible enough for everybody to pass through all seasons long.

Embracing Snow Pants for Daily Wear in Winter

It’s a safe bet that for many of us, the last time we wore a jumper of any kind was when we’re little kids under the age of six. Unless you are a big fan of rompers, have a work-related protective equipment that involves a jumper-style outfit, or you are into denim jumpers, you probably haven’t worn any clothing of this style since. However, for myself, I have learned to embrace a specific kind of jumper for my day-to-day living particularly living in our great winter city of Edmonton. It’s the snow pants.

Winters can be pretty long in Edmonton, and having the optimal amount of clothing can be a bit of a challenge. Particularly for us transit users, having that balance between warm and layered enough, and not being too stuffy like the Pillsbury doughboy is a difficult balancing act. I used to scoff at people or articles that say “You just need to dress for the weather.” It felt a little bit elitist because in my mind, really good-quality outdoor outfits are only for fancy activities like skiing and snowboarding. However, I have paid the price too many times of being too vulnerable and exposed because of not wearing enough layers, or wearing something that will get wet and cold after going through a pile of slush.

At one point, I told myself, I got to be a big girl and make sure I don’t get sick or injured because I’m going out and about the city while not driving. I’m getting those darn snow pants. And at the same time, make sure I’ll be very cheap about it. Thanks to my husband, I learned to embrace the value of thrift store shopping without feeling ashamed about it anymore. So that is exactly where I got most of the components of my optimal winter warm outfit. Going to a thrift store, I found a winter coat that I have been wearing for about 3 years now. It is a fancy brand, but thanks to the thrift store pricing, it was about $30 or less, I can’t remember anymore, it’s too long ago. And then, going through the racks winter clothing in the children’s section, I saw exactly what I was looking for, a purple jumper style snowsuit that is bright purple, warm with shoulder straps and was able to fit over my chest and zip over my boobs just fine.

February 2019 is when I first had to put this outfit to the test. Edmonton had a really challenging week when it was around -40 Celsius for almost a week and a half. I was really concerned because of the reality of buses and cars being delayed, so I know I should try not to freeze while waiting patiently for the bus. I know very well myself about how I react when it gets too cold. I get really really upset, angry, and in pain. Like, “I’m so discouraged about life” kind of pain. Like, “put me out of my misery” right now kind of pain. I put on a fleece sweater, put my winter jacket on had my hat, wrapped my face with my thick fluffy blue scarf, like I always do. And then the fluffy bright purple jumper snow pants.

And it worked! I was able to handle standing stationary on an outdoor bus shelter for about 20 minutes before the bus came, and I was completely fine. My hands, on the other hand, were a little bit unhappy with me. My stubborn self refuses to wear gloves at the time, while browsing on my phone on the bus stop. Other than that though, I was able to get to work relatively comfortable and in good spirits! Also, I needed to get too used to the whole ritual of undressing and removing all the layers and then putting on office related clothing. I’ve procrastinated all these years, but finally last year. I did bring my separate work shoes in a bag and left it in the office. And then, I would take off my big clunky and cozy winter boots and put on my work shoes. I did at the end of the day, put on my winter boots again, the snow suit jumper, all the layers, covering my face, and then head home.

This early 2020 we had another one of those very cold weeks. I tried the same outfit again, and it worked just as well. I even had a bit of an upgrade. Last December, my husband and I decided to get myself a pair of winter boots that have anti slipping bikes that are retractable with a push of a button at the back of the boots. They look heavy, industrial, and really badass. I really like them. I have been joking around that my calves are probably super strong right now with all the extra weight that I have been carrying on my feet everyday. And thanks to getting used to the habit last year of switching out of my winter boots and then onto my dress shoes, that has not been a problem this year at all. I’m still thankful to my fluffy purple snow pants. 

One positive indicator this year that made me realize that the snow pants are actually a good thing, is how people react when they see me. During different community events, or even at the office elevator, people look at my pants and they say.

“Wow! You are on the right track.”

“That’s amazing! That’s what you call being prepared”

This is what I encourage everybody to do, in order to comfortably navigate winter. Not only for the sake of commuting to work or two different places, but to also enjoy all the outdoor festivals and activities available, or just be okay and in a good condition when going out for a walk or buying something quick from the convenience store. The snow pants are worth it. There’s ways to buy them in a very affordable manner, from thrift stores to clothing swaps. It’s totally okay that in your destination, you hang your snow pants and your winter coat on two hangers right beside each other. For newcomers, like myself, It is really worth it while trying to get acclimatized to winter. It’s valuable to not 100% hate winter during your first couple years, and spare yourself of any painful first memories of winter. We have the power in our hands to adjust ourselves, our physical selves, given that we cannot control the weather as much as we want to.

Crafting and Tailoring Tutorial: How to Adjust Winter Gloves that are Too Big

Freebies are incredible, especially if they are practical items that can be used daily. Fabric bags, pens, squeeze toys, sticky note pads and reusable water bottles are just some of the examples. The best one given our weather? Winter gloves! But as many people know when it comes to “once-size-fits-all” items, they certainly do not fit those who are as tall as elementary school children.

I received these cozy pair of winter gloves from the office and they look warm and comfortable! The only issue is, unsurprisingly, that every single finger slot has up to an extra inch of fabric it it. My fingers, my entire hand, would be completely useless then when I’m outdoors. But since I am not foreign to the idea of hemming and trimming, I thought, it may not be as easy as hemming pants, but I’m sure that hemming fingertips of gloves is achievable.

This is my attempt at this tailoring job, with step-by-step instructions. I hope that someone out there finds it useful.

  • Wear the gloves to actually see how they fit
  • Flip the gloves inside out
  • Wear the gloves again to see where you would trim off the excess and sew.
  • Rip open the seams that closed up the fingers.
  • Using basting stitches, ideally with a thread with high colour contrast, stitch these temporary stitches around where you would like to sew it up again on the machine.
  • Cut the excess fabric off the fingers, leaving some extra room. once you flip the gloves inside out again, it will actually be shorter because of the extra fabric that will be folded in.
  • Place the permanent stitches with you sewing machine.
  • Trim off any of the excess fabic so it won’t feel bulky when wearing them
  • Flip the gloves inside out and try them on

They will look a bit awkward because in terms of style, they are built to look pretty with it’s original size. But for me? I don’t care because in this weather, function trumps fashion anytime.

For those who receive these freebie items that you actually don’t need, there are other options as well. You can outright (and kindly) say ‘no thank you, I have enough of these items already. You can donate it to someone else in need through a clothing drive or an equivalent. Re-gifting is also a decent idea. There are lots of techniques to reduce waster from accumulating extra items even though they may be deemed useful.

Managing Winter Without Driving Yourself Nuts

By: Giselle General

Living in Canada comes with a huge adjustment coming from one thing: winter! Even those who lived in colder regions like the Cordilleras or Tagaytay in the Philippines, are not spared from the shock, the pain, and the hassle from having to deal with temperatures that rival our refrigerators and freezers. This list is a small collection of different techniques on managing the season, especially in a place like Edmonton where winter can get cold and long.

Have a person who appreciates your city. My spouse is a born-and-raised Edmontonian so I am lucky in that regard. This has helped us do activities (both winter related and not winter related) to keep us from feeling too trapped in the house all the time. If there isn’t one, be that person!

Have a positive, or at least neutral, emotional reaction to winter-related household chores. The complaining will likely only compound the sting of frigid weather as you shovel the sidewalks, brush off the snow of the car windows, or sprinkle gravel when it is zero degrees and everything starts to get icy. Procrastinating on winter clearing tasks can actually make them more difficult or more expensive. Snow that is already packed in or stepped on is heavier and more difficult to scrape off. Ignoring the draft on a window or door that is not sealed can increase one’s heating bill. Denying that patch of ice on the sidewalk or stairs can cause an accident.

Learn about and appreciate what your government does when it comes to snow clearing. Snow clearing is the responsibility of the municipal government for roads and public places. Follow the law on what happens right after a large snowfall such as the parking ban, which means not parking your car along a road so the machinery can clear snow effectively. Another important task – and it is the law – is clearing the snow in front of your home, business or any other building you own. It may be a drag, but perhaps thinking of this as following the principle of “tapat ko, linis ko” can be a motivation. That saying translates to something like “It’s my ongoing duty to clean and maintain the space in front of me”. And if something that is supposed to be cleared by government staff was not done properly, it’s okay to send a report – they are not going to kill you! Any resident can call, email or use the 311 app to mention what needs to be fixed and its location.

Walking safely in winter. A mantra I have started to deliberately embrace is “better late than injured”. It took me three years to eventually hear about the “penguin walking technique” to minimize the likelihood of slipping when the pathways are tricky. I have yet to learn how to land safely when I inevitably slip, though I kept on hearing that it’s better to fall backwards on your butt than falling forwards on your face.

Try at least one winter activity and it doesn’t have to be an expensive one. The simplest is going for walks in our River Valley Trails. They are beautiful at all times of the year and it’s such a sight in the winter! Community leagues and churches in your neightbourhood will likely host at least one winter-related activity and our city has lots of winter festivals! Candy Cane Lane is a must-visit at least once. Our city even has a website specified for this, called Winter City Edmonton, where you can learn more information about different activities, both outdoor and indoor that you can try during the season. And if you are the charitable type, there are different fun walks/ fundraisers you can participate in that not only helps those who are most affected by winter and homelessness, but shares a valuable perspective about living during winter. There are lots of them, but two examples are the Coldest Night of The Year and Cold Hands Warm Heart.

Proper winter gear is a form of essential self care. To the Filipinos out there: during typhoon season we would want to be well equipped with an umbrella and raincoat right? It’s the same thing with winter. Find the pair of gloves that work with you and get an extra pair. There are anti-slip ice cleats that you can put on your shoes to make your walk less slippery. There are even rechargeable heated insoles for your shoes to keep your feet from freezing. There are attachments to help handling the snow shovel more easily so you won’t hurt your back. These items are worth it. Caring for your health and protecting your body is worth it.

Small talk about weather is fine, but don’t stop at the complaining. I think it’s a Canadian norm here, that at the lunch table or as a casual conversation topic in an event, the first topic is about the weather. That in itself is OK, but if it’s winter, it usually focused on complaining about how cold it is. I think this perpetuates that winter is nothing but awful, when it’s just how it is. I encourage anyone to insert something to make the conversation more positive or more interesting, perhaps talking about any topic related to the tips above. A volunteer lawyer at work was the first one who talked to me about the anti-slip ice cleats, so our conversation ended with a vibe of gratitude. A colleague during lunch talked about the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser, and I left that conversation amazed at the community initiative. Another colleague lives in an acreage and tells all these adorable stories about the wildlife that roam around during winter.

There is beauty and adventure and excitement that can only be had during this season, and the not-so-fun stuff is actually just as manageable as mowing the lawn in the summer. I hope that some of these tips are helpful and that you can find other ones that keep you warm, safe and happy during winter!