As Denver’s first snow swirls outside my window, Milwaukee is experiencing a heat wave, the only time since late July that it has been warmer there than in Denver. I wintered in Milwaukee for the last three years and during that time I forgot how much easier the winters in Colorado are than in the upper Midwest. Of America’s 50 largest cities, Minneapolis is the only one that has a colder average annual temperature than Milwaukee.
Although average annual snowfall is higher in Denver, the first winter I spent in Milwaukee it snowed over 112 inches, an all-time record (pictured above, just one of many blizzards that winter). The winter of 2006-2007, the last winter I spent in Colorado, was record-setting in terms of snow. There was enough of it to cover not only the shadowed corners of your yard but the entire street and neighboring field for over a month. To have snow on the ground for over a month; that was a big deal to some Front Range residents and it was the first time I could remember having snow on the ground for that long. But in Milwaukee, if the snow only stays for a month you are in good cheer. It’s not unusual for there to be snow on the ground for three months straight. It’s not that they get more than Denver—I already covered that—it’s that the cold takes your breath away and they get slightly less daylight than Colorado in the winter.When it comes to average annual temperatures, there is no competition. Among the places I’ve lived, only Laramie, Wyoming can compete with Milwaukee’s frostbite-inducing cold. Denver has its days, but I can’t honestly say the winters in Colorado are tough.
It’s amazing what a few years in a much colder environment can do to the way you respond to weather elsewhere. After just a few months of college in Laramie, I felt like I was going to the tropics when I drove south for an hour. Fort Collins was consistently 10-15 degrees warmer than Laramie. It was good I had that training, because without it I couldn’t have weathered the winters in Milwaukee with as much good cheer as I did.