The "Arctopalypse" has passed, and we're still alive.

When I was young, vast polar wilderness were never on the top of my list of places to go when I grow up. Since then, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in snowy mountains and outdoors skiing and trudging around in freezing weather.

But thanks to last week’s Polar Vortex, I think it would be fair to suspend disbelief and say we’ve all been to the Arctic.

Was it really that bad? Not for me, and everyone I know got through it relatively unscathed.

For a couple of days, it seemed any time one listened to the radio, turned on a television or checked any kind of media one would have got the impression the world as we know it was about to end. 

"Life-threatening cold temperatures" was one oft-repeated term, probably because nobody could figure out how to say "be very afraid" without sounding too alarmist.

Anymore, the same thing happens anytime snow is expected, or when a thunderstorm rolls through in the spring.

The vast, mass-communicating echo chamber seems to have turned every weather event, no matter how ordinary or severe, into "Snowmageddon" or last week’s "Arctopalypse."

Some may have had frozen pipes, broken furnaces, dead car batteries or other life-support system malfunction. But for a lot of people who don’t work outside, a hat, gloves and heavy coat suddenly became essential for the walk to the car, or from the parking lot into work.

Of course, schools were closed for two days, and many government offices also closed. Warming shelters opened for those who needed help.

But the vast majority of us were just fine.

Those who use public transportation got a big break in Summit County, where METRO RTA suspended fares through Friday. That really impressed me and the agency deserves a lot of credit for helping out patrons forced out in the cold to commute.

I took a few minutes to take a few photos of the frigid Cuyahoga River on Wednesday, where the air was so cold that steam rose from the white water by the Sheraton downtown in Cuyahoga Falls.

It was -1 degrees and my phone went dead in under five minutes. It took about 15 minutes to rewarm my hands in the car.

Many years ago a snowstorm came through with much of the same fanfare as last week’s cold temperature drop. It was about 15 degrees and snowing about six inches. So I went cross country skiing after dark. I could hear traffic in the distance, and watched the distant lights as people drove home from work. It was really quite peaceful.

Was it foolish and dangerous? I didn’t think so, but it wasn’t my first time out at night in the snow.

People have an urge to help and protect each other, but it can go too far.

For example, I’ve been many places where swimming isn’t as restricted as it is in this part of the country. Here, taking a dip in a lake outside regular hours is a violation prominently posted on signs. Other places, you swim in the ocean at your own risk.

Can you imagine signs that say "No walking in the blizzard," or a law that prohibits one from being in a park when the temperature dips below freezing?

For those not used to such cold weather or familiar with its dangers, it would be good advice. Alaskans would laugh.

But it doesn’t take much to die from the cold — one can get hypothermia outdoors on just about any winter day — except maybe on a day like Monday, when the temperature is expected to be in the mid 50s.

Believe it or not, many people love the winter. They ski, ride sleds and toboggans, and even go to just walk around in the snow.

Getting out and enjoying winter’s beauty beats being miserable until the end of March.

It’s really nothing to be afraid of — just be careful, and dress warm.

Eric Marotta can be reached at 330-541-9433, or