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.

Meet three winter champions

Embracing the elements comes naturally to these Madisonians.

Best spots for winter sports in Madison

Here's a list of cool places for winter lovers to get out and play.

Cannalte: Bring it on, Mother Nature!

WISC-TV meteorologist Gary Cannalte remembers the blizzard of 1990 like it was yesterday. 

Wisconsin's Real-Life Scrooge

Because we can’t all love winter.

Cool crafts: Knitting, candles and cards

We've got things covered if you want to get crafty or buy handmade gifts.

7 festivals, fairs and fun this winter

Fun for all ages can be found at festivals, fairs and other winter-friendly events.

Hot sips: 7 warm drinks to wrap your hands around

Winter in Wisconsin is best with a steaming cup in your hands.

Take Aaron Rodgers' advice and R-E-L-A-X this winter

Book a slot for hot yoga, a massage, facial or spa treatment to chase away the winter blues.

20 shows, exhibits and and more that close out 2016

Year comes to close with 20 shows, exhibits and concerts.

Comfort food: 5 must-have Madison dishes

Ward off the chill and feed the soul on cold-weather evenings.

Bike polo: The perfect winter sport?

This type of polo matching is chilling and thrilling,

Broomball: Madison's rough-and-tumble winter sport

With ice, brooms and a small soccer ball, amateur athletes sweep up the competition. 

Party food: A few easy holiday dishes to pass

You'll be the envy of every winter party with a tantalizing spread of delicious finger foods or easy-to-assemble drinks.

Two classes that'll step up your cooking game

Whether you're working with a hindquarter or julienning carrots, you'll have fun at these hands-on classes.

12 winter beers: Come to the dark side

It's dark beer's time to shine. Heavier lagers and pitch-black stouts are back on the bar tap this winter. Come to the dark side with these standout winter…

Stir in this DIY project on a snowy day

The owner of Madison’s craft bar Revel gives us a do-it-yourself guide on how to make festive swizzle sticks to adorn holiday cocktails.

Editor’s picks: 3 winter wardrobe essentials

Cold weather calls for cozy, warm layers and a pair of flat, knee-high boots.

Meet three winter champions

Best spots for winter sports in Madison

Cannalte: Brint it on, Mother Nature!

Wisconsin's Real-Life Scrooge

Cool crafts: Knitting, candles and cards

7 festivals, fairs and fun this winter

Hot sips: 7 warm drinks to wrap your hands around

Take Aaron Rodgers' advice and R-E-L-A-X

20 shows, exhibits and more this season

Comfort food: 5 must-have Madison dishes

Bike polo: The perfect winter sport?

Broomball: Madison's rough-and-tumble sport

Party food: A few easy holiday dishes to pass

Two classes that'll step up your cooking game

12 winter beers: Come to the dark side

Stir in this DIY project on a snow day

Editor's Picks: 3 winter wardrobe must-haves