Most pilots who have flown for a year or more have likely experienced flying in cold weather. Many may actually prefer to fly in the winter months because there are few threats of thunderstorms (at least in the more northern regions of the U.S.), generally clear air, and no bugs to clean off windscreens and leading edges! Also the beauty of the winter landscape can be awe-inspiring and can make flying in winter a beautiful experience.
Flying in winter conditions, however, brings about a need for a different set of skills and checklist items to consider. There are unique things required to protect the pilot and the aircraft and special precautions should be used when flying in winter conditions. Once the aircraft is fully prepared, there is one very important (and often under considered) part of safe winter flying that needs to be thoroughly reviewed, and that is the pilot’s personal preparation.
When doing a winter walk-around, if you get cold, then it is very likely that you are not properly dressed for that flight and the conditions you will encounter. If you are cold during your walk-around, imagine an unscheduled landing somewhere away from roads and people in those very same conditions. When flying in winter conditions, dress to survive the conditions you are likely to encounter.
Make sure your passengers are also properly dressed and prepared to survive.
The next very important consideration is your “survival kit.” When flying in winter especially (and driving too), everyone should carry a survival kit.
As their “pilot in command,” your passengers will look to you for support, guidance, and strength.
Again for the purpose of discussion here, assume there was no fire on landing and there is no danger of fire. You now have to decide whether or not to seek alternative shelter or stay with the plane. Though you have a survival kit, keep in mind that there are things in and on the aircraft that could be very useful in your survival situation. There is, for instance, gasoline that could be used for fire and warmth. Oil could be used to make thick smoke that could be more easily seen by rescuers. Aircraft upholstery can be used to wrap hands and feet to ward off the cold. The battery could be used to ignite fuel for a fire. Wiring could be used to tie things as needed.
The most important initial factors for winter survival are to stay dry, stay warm, and stay calm. Your survival kit should contain items to help you do those critically important things.
A complete kit should contain the obvious: food, water, shelter, and a first aid kit, but should also contain a life support kit to include things like a hacksaw with metal and wood blades, pliers, multiple screwdriver set, waterproof matches, a whistle, red day/night flares, and much more. Also, take time to be sure food and first aid items have not expired or leaked.
One source to get you started in your search for information is http://www.preparedpilot.com/.
Add to your winter checklist a reminder to verify by thorough checking, your survival gear, your survival plans, and survival information, before you fly.