Kids in World’s Coldest Town Finally Get a ‘Snow Day’ — at -60°C

Oymyakon, in extreme northeastern Siberia, is the world’s coldest permanently inhabited place. Five hundred people call the remote town in Yakutia home. When the mercury plummets and snow blankets the ground in the sub-Arctic winter, the townspeople don’t simply drop hunker inside in front of the wood stove. At least, the schoolchildren don’t.

Oymyakon, Russia on a characteristically frosty winter day. Photo: Shutterstock

 

For the local school’s 107 pupils to get a day off, the temperature has to drop past a bone-chilling -55˚C.

This year, the students had braved the increasingly frigid cold for every day of scheduled classes. Finally, on December 1, the temperature plunged to -60˚, triggering a coveted “snow day”.

world's coldest school

Photo: Spiridon Sleptsov

School’s out in Oymyakon, the world’s coldest town

Named after a local merchant, the wooden schoolhouse below has served the world’s coldest town since 1932. It operates under the province’s most demanding temperature cancellation rules. Senior students must attend until the -55˚C benchmark. The school excuses the youngest pupils, aged seven to eleven, at -53˚C.

world's coldest town

Nikolay Krivoshapkin Secondary School, Oymyakon, Siberia.

 

The school was out for two straight days last week, as the cold spell gripped the town through December 2. Still, to enjoy the benefits of a traditional snow day, the students had to duck Zoom classes. Seems like there’s no real escape for kids in this plugged-in world, even at -60˚C.

world's coldest town

Proof negative: A thermometer in Oymyakon reads -60 degrees C on December 2.

 

Two senior students, Vera Shpneva and Sayaana Vinokurova, did manage a “short break” from their screens to shoot a quick video of “hot water fireworks”.

 

To do the same, make sure the outside air temperature is below -35˚C, get a cup of boiling water and throw the water in the air. It flash-freezes into a vapor trail.

Check out the clip below from National Geographic to see how and why it works.

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents' evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.


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