Have you always dreamed about being free to get away from the city and head up to the lake one quiet winter weekend? With no one else around, the cottage is at its most peaceful when the water is frozen and the pine trees are all covered in snow. If you love to hop on the ski doo and tear across the snowy countryside, or if you'd rather hunker down in an ice fishing cabin on the lake, winter cottaging can be a lot of fun, and it feels like you've got the whole world to yourself.

Before you make your cottage livable in all 4 seasons, take stock of what you have and ask yourself some important questions.

What are you going to do at the cottage in the winter?

What happens if the lake hasn't completely frozen over and ice fishing or taking the ski doo across the lake aren't viable? Are you content with a roaring fire and a book, or are you going to start feeling cabin fever if there aren't outdoor activities? You can't control the weather, and typically you need snow and good, long deep freezes that create solid ice on the lake to make the most of a winter cottage. However, there are activities like snow shoeing and cross-country skiing that can get you outside even when the ice is thin.

What's the drive to the cottage like?

What kind of roads do you face on the way up to your place? Once you get off the highway, roads can be left in all kinds of conditions after a blizzard or an ice storm. Will the main road be ploughed shortly after a snow storm? You can easily get stuck if the snow isn't cleared.

Will your plumbing work in the winter?

When you close the cottage for the winter, you drain the pipes and shut off the water to prevent your pipes from freezing. If you're going to be up there in the cold, make sure your septic system is designed for year-round use.

What about your heating and insulation?

What heating options already exist at the cottage? You may have electric heating or a wood stove, but these can be expensive ways to heat your cottage in the winter and not necessarily effective. You may want to consider installing a furnace in your cottage if you're going to be using it regularly in the winter. Wood stoves won't spread heat through the cottage effectively, and wood can be an expensive form of fuel. Do your research and get information about buying a new furnace, how much it costs, and how much energy it will use to heat your cottage.

To make the most of your heating, you may also want to beef up the insulation. Unless your basement and roof are properly insulated, all that heat will just escape, and you'll be left shivering. Insulating may be on the pricey side, but it's essential if you want to make regular use of your winter cottage with the family.

Winter cottaging can be a great way to spend quality time with your family away from the world. You can even spend holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter away from the world. With the right winterization, you can get more from your cottage all year round.