Winter is coming…or is here for some of you, depending on where you live. And with it, the winter blues. This time of year, daylight is in short supply as the sun continues to creep behind the horizon longer and longer each day until December 21. Winter in the U.S. sees a decrease in activity and increase in blood pressures. We encourage people to combat the winter blues by finding new and enjoyable pastimes that you can do during the months where snow covers the ground. I know some of you are screaming at your computer screen that it is way to cold to be outside for long stretches. Don’t worry, these ideas for activities this winter will help you get outside and stay warm doing it. I apologize to most of the Southern States since these activities are mostly for states that get snow and plenty of it. We don’t feel too sorry for you since you can continue to do your regular outdoor routines, like hiking and biking.
These are our 5 favorite activities when the snow is piling up outside. The great thing about these is that you will also stay warm outside since you will be moving and grooving for all of the activities.
#1 – Snowshoeing – Snowshoeing has become more and more popular throughout the past several years and we can’t blame people for enjoying it. When the snow is deep but you want to go for a hike, this is the way to go. Snowshoes also allow you access to places that might otherwise be inaccessible during snowy months and you can burn approximately 425 calories per hour, so kill two birds with one stone and try on a pair of snowshoes.
Equipment/Gear Needed: Snowshoes – With this winter activity becoming more popular, there are more and more places that are offering snowshoe rentals. Check with your local outdoor stores. If nothing else, they can point you in the right direction or offer you a pair to purchase if you want to jump right in. We suggest renting or borrowing snowshoes before before investing in a pair for yourself since they can range from $75-$500. Make sure you enjoy the pastime before investing money into gear. You also want to have a set of ski poles to help steady yourself to get through the really deep snow.
#2 – Cross-country Skiing – I haven’t gone cross country skiing in several years, but I do remember how much I enjoyed it as a kid. My parents were big into this winter activity and it rubbed off. Like snowshoeing, cross country skiing is a great way to cover a lot of ground when the snow is deep. It is also said to be one of the best cardio workouts you can do. Often, hiking trails are converted into cross country ski trails during the winter months.
Equipment/Gear Needed: Cross country skis and poles - We suggest renting or borrowing the equipment before purchasing, since skis are not cheap. We were lucky enough to find a pair of cross country skis at an estate sale with the right size boots for just $20 bucks. This time of year, you might also have luck on used gear sites or stores with people trying to upgrade or get rid of their old skis.
#3 - Ice Skating – My personal favorite! I have been in love with outdoor ice skating since I was a little kid, when I started in my backyard at 5 years old. We continue to see more and more cities offering a location for outdoor skating and skate rentals. Whether it is a neighbor’s frozen pond, or a rink created by your city, this is a great way to get outside. A bonus, most rinks offer a spot nearby to warm up just in case you get too cold.
Equipment/Gear Needed: Ice Skates – As we mentioned above, if your lucky enough to have a city built rink often they will also offer rentals. If not, check with family or friends in your area. We bet that someone probably has an old pair of ice skates laying around in a basement or attic that you could borrow to see if you enjoy outdoor ice skating as much as we do.
#4 – Hiking – Don’t rule out a regular old hike, even if there is snow on the ground. If the snow is minimal, the trails will be frozen and easy to navigate. The trails will also be much less crowded in the winter, so check out a popular or bucket list trail to enjoy a less crowded, colder version of the trail experience.
Equipment/Gear Needed: Winter hiking boots and gaiters – Check into on how cold your boots are rated for. Most winter boots will have a rating and tell you what type weather they can handle. Also, make sure your boots are water proof to avoid a miserable, cold and wet experience with frozen feet that will need to be warmed up by a fireplace. Gaiters are a great and inexpensive way to keep from getting snow inside of your boots. They are versatile and can also be used during the summer on wet hikes to help keep your socks dry.
For all of these activities, layering is very important. You want to avoid cotton clothing, along with wearing too heavy of a jacket. Be flexible and able to shed layers while maintaining warmth throughout your hike. It gets tricky, so test out options during shorter spans of activity to get your layering game tuned in for the winter. I like to test new clothing out when I shovel to get an idea of how warm it will keep me and how it will react during high usage.
Whatever option you choose, we encourage you not to avoid the outdoors during winter. There is something about the crisp, cold air that is refreshing and we want more people to experience, and fall in love with, that feeling.