We use our lake house as a week-end retreat all year long. It is close enough (90 minutes) that we just want to be there as often as possible, no matter what the weather. We enjoy our pre-retirement vacation home that much.
1. Can you get to it? In some extreme northern or remote locations, roads to lake front property are closed or impassable at certain times of year.
2. Can you keep it warm? In my opinion, this means insulation and central heating. Although the concept of staying warm in front of a fireplace in a lake cabin that is not insulated may sound charming or romantic, the pleasure won’t last long. We have a heat pump and a fireplace and on very cold days, it can be hard to keep the entire house warm. In fact, our next purchase is going to be a high tech space heater that we can move from room to room as needed. You may get by with a fireplace insert heater but if your lake cabin is not insulated, forget it. Even if you can keep enough heat in, you will spend a lot of time and money stoking the fire. Cold drafts will probably be part of your life as well.
3. Can you get water? We draw our water from a county water system, meaning that as long as we protect our pipes, we can get water in even the coldest weather. Many lake homes depend at least in part on well water or even lake water. Reliably drawing water from natural sources during the coldest months can be a real problem. Freezing is always a concern. You don’t want to have to spend your time thawing out water systems for your basic water needs.
4. Will you enjoy the downtime? This is a big issue for some. If your primary enjoyment from a lake house derives from water-based activities (fishing, boating, swimming), you will need alternatives for winter living at the lake. In our case, we enjoy the solitude, the peace and quiet, and the natural beauty. We are also fortunate to have some year-round neighbors that we are friendly with. If you are hoping to attract visitors from family and friends, they may not find “winter at the lake” as enjoyable as you do. If you tend to the more gregarious side with a need for outside stimulation, winter living at the lake may not be for you. If you are content with your spouse’s company, reading, writing (I blog a lot from the lake), and TV viewing, that really helps.
5. Are stores and other resources nearby? In many lake communities, some of the stores and other commercial facilities depend so much on summer traffic that they close or drastically cut back in the winter months. The marina closest to us is one example. You need to be sure that you can find a grocery store, etc. that is reasonably available in winter. Otherwise, you will be storing and/or transporting a lot of food.
These are some of my initial thoughts about winter living at the lake. I will probably have some others to write about in the future.
Image credit: Saso Skalic