When you hear the word “winter,” what comes to mind?
Hibernation season? Runny noses and sore throats? Slushy sidewalks and frozen windshields?
While you’re not *wrong*, winter can be so much more than a season to merely endure.
Just because the sun sets earlier and temps dip to frigid territory doesn’t mean you can’t work up a sweat by enjoying a great outdoor adventure during these long months of the year.
In that spirit, below are a few of our favorite winter activities and ways to make the most of the season.
We know what you’ve been asking yourself: what’s the history of snowshoeing?
No problem! We got you.
Believed to have originated in Central Asia more than 6,000 years ago, the act of strapping on “shoes” to walk over deep snow was (and still is) a survival technique. Snowshoes were created as a way to get from one hunting ground to another in an effort to find more food during the chilly and harsh winter months.
For most of us, though, times have changed. We have grocery stores and corner delis that can replenish our winter bellies, and our snowshoes can be used for recreation instead of a means to feed ourselves.
If you’re excited to try snowshoeing but have never done it, do a quick Internet search to find trails in your area. If you’ve got a trail nearby, odds are there’s somewhere to rent snowshoes from, too.
Pro-Tip: Bring a phone for emergencies, but turn it off so you're not constantly checking to see if you've got a signal. Winter months imbue a unique sense quietude in trails and forests, and time spent wandering on snowshoes can bring about an inner peace that’s worth relishing.
You don’t have to be a figure skater to hit the ice.
Ponds! Lakes! Man-made rinks! Skating is a quintessential winter activity that can be fun for any age and any skill level.
Never skated before? Start small.
Find a local rink that offers skating lessons and take a few to get comfortable. Like everything, your skills (and confidence) will grow with practice.
If you’re an expert and prefer a less crowded option, find a pond or lake that’s frozen over and lace up your boots. The wind in your face as you glide down the ice is one of the best feelings.
Pro-Tip: If you’re skating outside, be sure to check local conditions and ensure the ice is frozen through. Skating near the edges of a pond or lake is the best way to stay safe, but if you're not sure - don't risk it!
Cross-country skiing is a wonderful way to take in the best winter weather and get some exercise in the process. It’s a whole-body workout and the rewards are excellent.
Cross-country skiing can feel a bit difficult at first (mostly because the movement is one that isn’t fully natural), but once you get the hang of moving your legs in a stride as opposed to walking, everything will flow naturally.
Most states that get measurable winter snow have trails that can be used for cross-country skiing. Look some up before you set out on your adventure, and be sure to be prepared.
Cross-country skiing is tiring (and that’s why it’s such a great exercise), so wear layers and be sure to bring snacks and plenty of water for your time on the trail.
Hiking isn’t just for spring, summer, and fall. Even if there’s snow on the ground, you can still hit the trail. You’ll just need to bring a few pieces of gear that will make things easier.
Dress for the weather! Wear long underwear and make sure you’ve got layers and a great pair of wool socks. Insulating clothing will help regulate your body’s heat and keep you feeling warm while on the trail. Avoid cotton because you'll still work up a sweat and you want clothing that will wick away moisture instead of absorbing it.
Additionally, invest good waterproof hiking boots so your feet stay dry and warm. Using gear that’s made for winter weather will make your hike much easier.
When you do hit the trail, bring along something warm to sip: coffee, hot cocoa, tea or soup. It will act as fuel AND warmth for your journey.
If none of the above pique your interest, or if they require a bit too much physical effort than you’re seeking, sledding might be your winter activity.
It’s both a thrill and a tiny bit of work. All you’ve gotta do? Find a hill and sled down it.
Enjoy the ride, get in some runs, and return home with flushed cheeks and a happy spirit.
Maggie Dodson is a creative writer living in New York City. An avid hiker and film buff, she spends most of her days sneaking wine into movie theaters and climbing mountains in the Hudson Valley with her husband and rescue dogs, Billie Holiday and Walnut. For book + wine pairings and her merry misadventures, follow Maggie on IG at @maggiesdodson.
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