Exhilarating, magical, nostalgic, delicious and fun. We’re talking about Wisconsin winters, of course. While the rest of the world uses words like brutal and bone-chilling to describe our winters, those who grew up here—who’ve lived through Madison’s blizzard of 1990 and the tornados that streaked through southern Wisconsin during the city’s snowiest winter in 2007-08—can’t imagine living anywhere else. Despite the snowy commutes and the frozen pipes, there are so many things to love about winter. Madisonians are proud of their cold-weather resilience, and, OK, maybe we take pleasure in teasing people in milder climates who lose their minds when an inch of snow hits the ground. Some of us may even like that Madison was ranked the 23rd coldest city last year in a report cited by USA Today.

And for those who know Wisconsin only for its beer, cheese and bitterly cold winters, there’s a lot they’re missing out on. Here in Madison, we have winter enthusiasts who bike to work in January and voluntarily plunge into icy waters for charity. We have sports played only in snow and on ice, with athletes puffing clouds of cold breaths into the air. We rock holiday parties. We’ve got killer coffee shops and cafes that purvey warm beverages we can wrap our hands around on a crisp morning. In the next few pages, we call out people, places and activities that help define a Madison winter.

So, come on below-freezing temperatures, snowstorms and months of glorious, powdery snow. We've been waiting all year for you.