Those of who who have been following the weather in Calgary recently know that it snowed for more than 60 hours last week, starting sometime Monday night and not stopping until mid-morning Thursday. And it is snowing again this week.

Now, having been here last year for the winter as well, I was not shocked by snow in November, actually it snowed much earlier last year, and I guess this year as well, it just didn’t stick around long that time. Suffice it to say, this is sticking for a bit, especially given the forecast for the next few days.

I was also not shocked when the streets were not continuously during or even immediately after the snow. And it got me to thinking about this difference between the US and Canada that I had been exposed to last year. OK, so my sample size in Canada is small, one city, not so much in the US as I have been in many cities there during the winter. Though I hope my inadequate sample size does not invalidate my impressions.

So, what am I referring to? It is the use (or lack of use) of salt in treating the roads during and after a snow. I am so amazed that here there does not seem to be the pressure to have clear and dry roads within hours of a snowfall and folks just drive through the snow, heck they even still have snow tires here, talk about a blast from the past for US folks. Yes, the commute times increase, and yes that is often the subject du jour in the office, yet I actually like it, for a number of reasons.

First, and foremost, is that road salt is bad for the environment, especially in Chicago where a very busy thoroughfare (Lake Shore Drive) is just steps aware from an environmental treasure (Lake Michigan). Anyone who lives in an area where excess salt is used knows first hand the damage it does to the roads, contributing to the plethora of potholes that seem to materialize out of nowhere every winter and to cars. Given that, one should be able to imagine what it can do to lakes and other watersheds.

In addition to that, I like the fact that the driving conditions make folks slow down a bit. Yes, some people still drive like maniacs, but in general folks are more aware of what is going on around them and more courteous to other drivers. I can’t exactly say why, but I do feel that the slower drive is somewhat rewarding. Maybe because I get to listen to a little more news than if I were moving full speed ahead, or maybe it is something more intangible.

Sadly, many of the folks I interact with do not seem to share my sentiments and would rather see the abuse of salt extended to Canada to make their lives easier. I have even gotten comments to the effect of how the environmental gains are offset by the spillage of gas during an accident. Seriously!

So please, save the salt for the margaritas, they might help you slow down and relax as well, and talk up the benefits of limiting the use of road salt.