GET OUT: Stay warm out there
This recent, and rather early, cold snap probably put a halt to many of the Grand Valley residents’ outdoor activities. I know for me, it’s been difficult to convince myself that a trail run or ski day will be good for me when it is only 3 degrees.
Still, we all know fresh air and sunshine are beneficial to our mental and physical well-being, and we should try to get out and experience those things as often as possible. So, here are a few tips for enjoying the outdoors even when it’s below freezing.
For hiking or snowshoeing:
Layer your clothing so you have a thermal base layer, a mid-layer (I like my Smartwool mid-zip sweater the best) and a final layer like a down or synthetic puffy coat or fleece. If it’s windy, I prefer the puffy coat. Keeping your trunk warm is key, so if you think you’re going to get hot, you could try a puffy vest instead of a full jacket.
For my legs, I like to start with a warm pair of thermals. Lightweight thermals are usually enough for hiking. Then I add a top layer of hiking pants or more fitted winter running pants. Choose heavy hiking socks and waterproof boots or trail running shoes. I also wear light gloves, like those by Mountain Hardwear, when trail running.
Headgear is whatever you’re comfortable with. I like any variety of wool stocking caps or at least my Pearl Izumi ear warmers. I’ve found a few pieces that work great because I can take them off and tie them around my waist easily, if need be. My synthetic puffy coat works great for this. Another option, of course, is to carry a daypack into which you can stuff any pieces of clothing you take off along the way.
It may take a few times to get your winter hiking attire just right, and, of course, some of this will depend on the temperatures, but eventually you’ll figure out what works best for you.
Most of this will remain similar to the above rules for hiking. Your top layer will be your ski jacket and ski pants. I usually wear my midweight thermals if it’s above 10 degrees, and my heaviest ones if it’s below that. I like to wear the thickest socks I can when I’m skiing in extremely cold temps. My toes tend to get cold quickly.
If it’s down into the teens or single digits, I wear a fitted pair of gloves and mittens for skiing. Under my helmet I’ll sometimes wear either a balaclava or thin, fitted, winter cap to keep my head warmer. I also always keep a neck gaiter handy to cover my face.
It sounds like a lot of clothing, but lift rides can be cold. If the wind is blowing, those rides can be downright miserable. Of course, staying out in freezing temperatures without proper gear can result in frostbite. Areas first affected are your nose, hands, toes and ears, so keeping those spots covered and warm on a long lift ride is important.
It can be difficult to think about drinking water as much during the winter, but it’s just as important as staying hydrated on hot days.
Winter activities like skiing and snowshoeing are strenuous. They use lots of energy and can still cause us to sweat and lose moisture.
For trail running or hiking, I take a small Camelbak or Orange Mud HydraQuiver pack. If you’re worried about the hose on your hydration pack freezing, you can get an insulated sleeve for it. We also take a small Camelbak with an insulated hose when we ski.
Make sure to eat a snack if you’re out exercising for longer than an hour. Keep snack bars close to your body, so they don’t freeze. Trust me, a Clif Bar that has been in your backpack will be pretty frozen after an hour in the cold. Of course, you can always just take a trusty peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich. They don’t freeze, and they’re still tasty even if they get smashed.
Don’t ignore the sun
Finally, don’t forget your sunscreen and lip balm. It feels so good to be out in the sunshine when it’s freezing, but that sun will burn you just as quickly in the winter as in the summer.
Winter is a great time to get out and explore. Everything has a different look about it, and the world seems quieter somehow. Use these tips and find some time to get out.