Montreal winter weather gets a well deserved bad rep as the season can be brutal if you're not prepared. Yet, if you dress the part, there is no reason not to love winter in Montreal.
Many visitors assume there is a single season of winter weather in Montreal: cold. But, Montreal does indeed have temperature variations each month which can impact how travelers may pack.
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Montreal Winter Weather by Month
Winter in Montreal lasts from December until April. The average temperature in December is a daytime high of -2.3 C / 28 F and a nighttime low of -8.9 C / 16 F. Snow and freezing rain are likely to occur during the month.
In January, the temperature begins to drop further with the days at -2.3 C / 28 F on average and nights reaching -12.4 C / 10 F Snow flurries are expected during half of the month. The cold front continues in February, hitting an average daytime temp of -3.3 C / 26 F and a nighttime low of -12.2 C / 10 F. A strong wind chill is the main issue to be concerned about during the month.
The weather in March can be tricky. The cold weather from the prior months may continue or an early spring could bring warmer temperatures. On average, the days are 2.5 C / 36.5 F and the nights are -6.5 C / 20 F, but a constant is a need for waterproof boots as the snow on the ground turns into slush.
April is springtime but in Montreal that still means cool temperatures. The days will reach 11 C / 52 F on average, while the nights dip to 2.9 C / 37 F Heavy winter coats can be left at home, but scarves and hats are still recommended.
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Wind Chill: A Definition
According to Environment Canada, the wind chill index is “used to determine the relative discomfort resulting from a specific combination of wind speed and air temperature, expressed by the loss of body heat in watts per square metre (of skin).”
In other words, there are windy winter days when it feels colder if any skin is exposed. Bundle up with a hat, scarf, gloves, and even a face mask if needed.
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What to Know About Frostbite
Those taking the journey to frigid climates are often warned to take precautions to avoid frostbite.
Frostbite is an injury to the skin (and if severe, underlying tissue) that results from extended exposure to freezing temperatures. Frostbite is often exacerbated by wind chill.
According to the Canadian Weather Service, temperatures between -10 C/14 F to -0 C/32 F present low risk for frostbite. If the temperature goes below -28 C/-18.4 F, there is a risk of frostbite within 10-30 minutes, and if the temp drops lower, there is a high risk within 10 minutes or less.
The good news is that frostbite typically only occurs in very low temperatures, so frostbite in Montreal is not likely to be an issue that impacts most visitors.
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Dressing for winter in Montreal requires planning ahead, depending on which month you'll arrive. During the early months, pack a heavy parka, thick sweaters, and cold weather underwear. Insulated boots, scarves and a wool hat are a must.
As the cold weather fades a bit, travelers can get away with a slightly lighter winter coat, long sleeve shirts, and even jeans. It is best to bring along sunglasses and sunscreen for sunny (but, still chilly) days.