The amazing guys from Handcraft Creative shot this video last week when I popped in to do a little more #kbscript on the frozen Red River at The Forks. There's more to this story and if you follow along with me on Instagram you might have seen some of the photos from the last day of 2014 when I painted a large skating rink full of inspirational resolutions... and my heart cracked open.
I love winter. Painting on ice makes my heart happy in a way that I can't describe. But, if you have a minute - watch this beautiful video to see a small glimpse into the winter I love so much. THANK YOU so much HANDCRAFT CREATIVE.
I love winter. I love snow. I love ice. I love polar bears. I love Canada. I also understand, quite intimately, that in order to enjoy those three things YOU NEED TO BE WARM. Also important to note: I live in a place that is sometimes labelled "THE COLDEST SPOT IN THE WORLD". By THE WEATHER CHANNEL. (That's not a joke - I think it happened twice last year!) I am a really big fan of the NORTH. As in the ARCTIC. I regularly spend time in the Sub-Arctic and I feel like I can speak with a little bit of street cred. ;)
[ It's also important point out that winter gear is totally specific to the activity you're using it for. Taking the bus requires different gear than climbing a mountain. Standing at the Arctic ocean watching polar bears needs different gear than skiing in Rockies or bobsledding or heading to the mall in light flurries. You get my snow drift? Haha, drift.]
I can't remember how I stumbled onto Love Winter's Valenki boots, but I did and I feel compelled to post an honest review in case others were interested.
At first sight, I fell in love with the wool boot. I love the charcoal colour. The texture. The properties of wool. You can wear the boot WITHOUT the colourful "galosh" and that's what I did last winter (in the house ONLY!) because I was not confident the galosh was going to be able to weather a real Winnipeg winter. (Plus, I grew up in Sorels and I am skeptical of any brand that might not understand our temperature.)
A couple weeks ago I went to the SubArctic to see my favourite things: POLAR BEARS. Churchill, Manitoba - the 58th parallel. I was packing painting gear so I only had room for one pair of boots. I didn't want to take the Valenkis but I wanted to get photos of the boots in use in REAL winter.
I decided to risk frozen toes and take the Valenkis. (Oh, yes, I packed plenty of warming 'hot-shots' to slip in the boots. I surrendered to the idea that I'd most-likely be painfully frozen - AND I probably teased by locals. ;)
In true Churchill form, it was FREEZING. It was cold. It was snowy, blustery windy and wet. It ranged from -18˚ to -8˚C (0˚ - 21˚F) The shores of the Hudson Bay are relentless. Temperatures that might seen tolerable in the city - are completely different standing by an ocean. My fingers inside my expensive MEC mittens (with hand warming packs) WERE FROZEN.
My FEET? AMAZING. I was shocked by the warmth of the boots. I'll go ahead and say it: I DID NOT EXPECT THAT. I'll eat the humble pie. I expected them to be slippery on the ice. They were not. I expected my toes to be painfully cold and they WERE NOT AT ALL. (I wore one pair of cotton socks under one pair of wool socks - that's all.) I did NOT use warming packs in my boots like I have every time before.
I have NEVER HAD SUCH WARM FEET.
People I passed on the streets asked me about them. People from other countries and languages asked me about them. Local people asked me about them. Kids complimented me. Older people told me about remembering their grandparents from long ago having a similar boot style (this is true - it's a Russian boot design!).
And I have NEVER HAD SUCH WARM FEET.
VALENKI PROS: WARM. Beautifully warm. They are wool so they dry fast. They are light. You can change the colour of galosh! You can take the galoshes OFF and just wear the boots inside (AMAZING). The grip is GOOD! (They were no more slippery on shiny ice than my Sorels - I would say they were more than ten times better than UGGs.) The boots are comfortable and easy to slip on and off. I spent hours standing in the windy, cold snow watching POLAR BEARS - AND MY FEET WERE WARM.
VALENKI CONS: If you find yourself in thigh deep snow (like I did) then snow is going to get into your boots and your feet are going to get WET. End of story. If you do not find yourself lodged in a snowbank - then it's not an issue (I should have been wearing ski pants). I'm going to guess that these boots are probably not super great for hardcore activities like alpine hiking or agressive toboganning because there is no way to tighten them. I LOVE the green colour. I have been wearing them EVERYDAY for the last 75 days - they are getting scuffed. They are easy enough to clean, but are showing signs of wear. Also important to note, if you don't get the right size for you - they feel like walking in large rubber boots.
FIT: They fit LARGE/BIG - so consider that if you order. I wear a 7-7.5 (size 8 in Sorel) but am somewhere closer to a 6 than the 7 in Valenki. Because they do not tighten - the fit is important.
VERDICT: YES. YES. GOOD BOOTS. GOOD. BOOTS. I would buy them again. I will buy multiple pairs. They are warm and beautiful. Easy and light. I am so proud they are Candian and I, of course, LOVE that the soles of the boots say LOVE and WINTER. (And no animals are harmed in the making of these boots.)
AM I BEING PAID TO WRITE THIS? NO. I have been a fan of the boots for a while. I have been lucky enough to meet co-founder Polina in person! I created a 'BE AMAZING' #kbscript print for them and I have supported their Indiegogo campaign by PURCHASING MY OWN BOOTS. Love Winter has not asked me to write this review. I simply felt compelled to say something after wearing the boots in the Subarctic and being utterly impressed. WARM and... IMPRESSED.
This print is now in my Crated shop. It's meaningful to me. Fall was stormy here. We struggled. We lost one of our littlest family members and life slowed as we said goodbye to summer. This script print of my own words, will always be a good reminder for me. Life has an ebb and flow and the darkness serves us, slows us, and sets sets deep gratitude for all that is light.
[The above image is part of a card and print collection that I designed for Fifty Eight North - only available on the 58th parallel in Churchill, Manitoba.]
It's that time again. When polar bears wait anxiously for sea ice so they can get back to the things that fuel their souls. And me, I'm packing up to go stand on the shore of the Hudson Bay and watch them go. I'm not even going to pretend that this isn't going to be overly emotional for me. Fall has been relentless for us - in the best and worst ways.
I'm pretty sure I'm going to stand on the ice weeping.
And then get back to the things that fuel my soul.