Ask An Outsider: How Can I Enjoy Winter More?

Welcome to Ask an Outsider. We are here to answer your most pressing questions about enjoying time outside, like how to make outdoorsy friends, tips on going No. 2 in the woods or how to reconcile a different risk tolerance with a partner. Our advice givers are experts inside and outside the co-op who draw from their own experiences to help inform yours.

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Dear Outsider,

I love getting outside in summer, but I find myself twiddling my thumbs during winter. Do you have tips for winter activities?


Sarah, member since 2019

Editor’s Note: Today’s advice giver is Emily Ford, a winter long-distance hiker who with her dog Diggins completed a 1,200-mile trek of the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin during the coldest months of the year. In early 2022, she also hiked nearly 200 miles across snow and slush in the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area.

Dear Sarah,

Even simple daily movement outside helps me keep the winter blues away and stay in love with the season. I mean, it is a relationship, and those take work! There are a lot of things you can do outside, whether you’re exploring the depths of the forest or want to stay close to home. So, if you are looking to get away from the city and find the depths of the forest, or want to stay close to home, here are some thoughts. Oh—and don’t forget to bring water and snacks on all of your winter outings. Hydration and fueling your body are even more important in the winter when you may be less inclined to stop. 

Here are a few ideas:

Emily enjoys looking for mouse “highways” in the woods with her dog, Diggins. Photo courtesy of Emily Ford.

Adventuring in the woods

  • Hiking is a great option for a daily winter outing. If the icy ground is a deterrent, I would suggest some form of winter traction device. Sometimes when I’m just walking around town, I will throw on MICROspikes. (Find out what I take along my winter treks). For extra stability, trekking poles are a fantastic option. If you become a winter day hiker, you will get to see some of the most beautiful scenes if you can make your way to green spaces. I love becoming a rime ice hunter. 
  • If you want to go off-trail and the snow is deep, throw on a pair of snowshoes
  • Another beautiful thing about winter is that the snow can preserve animal tracks. One of my hiking joys is following the mouse “highways” in the woods. I am not a birder, but always wished I was. Winter can be so quiet due to the snow cover, so many bird chirps can be heard clearly. Mix these activities in with a hike or as you get outside in your city. 
  • Foraging can be done all year round. In the winter, I look for cedar and pine needles, rose hips and Labrador tea leaves. When spring and winter start their dance, I like to tap maple trees and drink the sap as a hot tea as well. 
  • Build a quinzee (or quinzhee), a snow shelter made by hollowing out a mound of snow. I will be the first to say that it is impossible to outgrow fort building.
A young person lying down in the snow with arms widespread making a snow angel.

In-town fun

  • Tubing and sledding will always bring out the little-kid joy in me. Never underestimate how fun it is to go racing downhill with your best buddies. 
  • Try ice skating at a local rink or on a frozen lake.  

For the bold

  • Sauna and cold-water plunges are options. 
  • Ice climbing: This is a technical skill, but I don’t want to leave it off this list.
A person cross-country skis along groomed tracks accompanied by a dog

Movement by animal power

  • Find a local mushing guide and experience the magic of dogsledding. 
  • Go skijoring with your pup. Cross-country skiing is still a bit of a technical skill, but I have found that this is the best way for me to get out with my dog in the winter. 

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