For those whose New Year's resolution was to live under a rock, 2014 has started off with a reminder that winter in the Northeast can be unpredictable.

A cold front is sweeping through the region, carrying with it up to 18 inches of snow for some areas of southern Vermont.

That can be quite a hassle for parents struggling to find activities or sitters for their children due to school closures.

It's also a little dangerous for drivers on snow-packed roads and pedestrians looking for cleared sidewalks so they don't have to walk on those snow-packed roads.

Town and state road crews will be putting in overtime as will police and emergency responders, and that can put a strain on already over-stressed budgets.

To make matters worse, temperatures are expected to drop to downright bonechilling -- approaching 20 below in some areas tonight.

It's crucial that anyone going out on Friday or into the evening bundle up against the cold, especially considering the wind-chill factor could drive relative temperatures even lower.

"Once the storm pulls away, a frigid arctic air comes in," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Erik Pindrock. "It will be windy later Thursday and into Friday. It's going to feel just brutal out there I think."

The Brattleboro Fire Department advises residents to follow safety tips which include dressing appropriately for the weather, using extreme caution when using alternative heating sources, leaving a faucet cracked open if pipes have a tendency to freeze and making sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working.

This is an especially worrisome time for people who run homeless shelters or deal with people who have no permanent roof over their heads. While for most of us, these temperatures are not much more than a shivering inconvenience, for those without a home, they can be fatal.

So while there are serious concerns about the next few days, with the icy temperatures, walking and driving safe and making sure the homeless stay warm, we must remember that the winter is a crucial time for many businesses dependent on our local ski areas.

Anytime we get weather like we are experiencing now, skiers and boarders stream up the highway from down south to hit the slopes at Mount Snow, Okemo, Stratton, Bromley, Magic Mountain, Haystack and Grafton Ponds.

For those who have hesitated to slap boards on their feet and glide (hopefully) downhill, all across Vermont in January they can learn to ski for just $29. That includes a beginner area lift ticket, a lesson and a rental, and it's quite a deal! (For more information, visit http://www.skivermont.com/events-and-deals/program-learn.)

There is also an extensive network of snowmobile trails through our region and those who utilize them also spend money at local businesses.

And for those of us who prefer to stay indoors during the inclement weather, January is national soup month. For those of us who don't subscribe to Antarctic explorer Roald Amundsen's life motto ("There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing."), we can't think of a better time to hunker down with a steaming bowl of soup, some homemade bread and a slab of butter.

So while there are serious reasons to be concerned about the snowfall and the falling temperatures, we must also remember that we live in New England, and winter is a large part of our collective experience.

It's also the time of the year when many of our neighbors make money off of skiers and boarders, and despite the inconvenience, we surely don't want to begrudge them the bonanza of a well-timed snowfall.

Stay safe, drive smart and bundle up; the winter's just beginning.