5 Ways to Make the Most of Winter

The days are short and (finally) getting colder around here.  As a Vermonter, I’m generally fond of winter.  One would have to be in order to live here year round.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t pine for summer, feeling strangely nostalgic for even the hottest and buggiest of hiking days gone by.

If I find myself in a seasonal slump, I use these 5 Ways to Make the Most of Winter to take heart that summer will return, and as a reminder to lean into the present.

1. Plan for the next Adventure

Whether you have one day or one month to look forward to next summer, take the time to research new trails, pull your favorite guidebook off the shelf, and gather up some maps.  Clear the coffee table, spread out, and start scheming!  Sipping spiked hot chocolate or beer, local to the area you’re planning to hike, are excellent additions to this endeavor.

There is no shortage of logistical planning to fill your time in the off months: penciling out potential itineraries; making lists for food prep, gear, and mail drops; determining transportation needed to/from the trail; procuring permits; and (most importantly) getting pumped!  Give yourself a full trail immersion from the comfort of your own couch.

December 26, 2015: Sitting fireside with my Adirondack guidebook and map while I sip upon my Adirondack beer.

December 26, 2015: Sitting fireside with my Adirondack guidebook and map while I sip upon my Adirondack beer.

2. Join online communities

Whether planning a new adventure or returning to a favorite stomping ground, there’s bound to be an online forum full of hikers interested in the same trail system.  For the Appalachian Trail, Whiteblaze.net and Appalachian Trial’s Thru-Hiker Resources provide a wealth of information, as well as several Facebook groups (e.g. Women of the AT).

Online message boards provide a forum where questions can be answered, hikes can be planned, up-to-date trail information can be obtained, and wisdom can be shared.  Most importantly, staying connected to the hiking community helps fend off feelings of isolation and loneliness during the winter months.

3. Find the best off-season deals

Why pay full price for gear you’re going to annihilate next summer? With time on your side, keep an eye out for killer deals!  Outfitters will inevitably change out their summer stock, unload last year’s models, and several holidays will come and go.  In other words, there are countless opportunities for deep discounts.  ‘Tis the season to find prices for summer gear that will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

The following are some websites where you’re likely to get the most bang for your buck: campmor.com, backcountry.com, and sierratradingpost.com.  Also, keep an eye out for local gear swaps and special events, like REI’s annual garage sale for members (coming up January 2, 2016!).

4. Curl up with a good book

Over the years, I’ve amassed a collection of outdoor-related memoirs, fiction, and graphic novels that rival the number of guidebooks I own.  In the depths of winter, when you need to break up the monotony of below freezing temps and low hanging gray clouds, escape (if only in your mind) into good reads, such as: Southbound (Lucy Letcher & Susan Letcher), Drawn: The Art of Ascent (Jeremy Collins), The Stars, the Snow, the Fire: Twenty-Five Years in the Alaska Wilderness (John Meade Haines), or Desert Solitaire (Edward Abbey).

A snapshot of my bookshelf.

A snapshot of my bookshelf.

5. Play outside

If you can’t beat winter, join it.  Get out there!  Grab a pair of microspikes and snowshoes and take to the summit.  Or, better yet, sit back and enjoy the ride on a chairlift with skis or a snowboard. Think back to the summer – how often would you be willing to give an arm or a leg for a lift to the top?  Now’s your chance.

Seeing the mountain from a whole new vantage point.

Seeing the mountain from a whole new vantage point.

Enjoy the sense of satisfaction gained when winter doesn’t get the best of you.  Summer will come again, and when it does, you will be prepared!

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