How to Survive the Shortest Day of the Year


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Winter solstice is on its way, and if you don’t already have plans, it’s time to make them.

The shortest day of the year, the solstice is the official start of winter–great for anyone who loves to ski. But it also means that from this point forward, the days will be longer, the sun a little warmer, and before you know it, summer will be in full swing. So no matter your favorite season, winter solstice is a win-win. Here’s one way to celebrate it.

This year, winter solstice falls on December 22. Unfortunately for anyone with a day job, that’s a Tuesday. But if you’ve managed to take it off, you’ll have exactly eight hours and 57 minutes between sunrise and sunset to maximize the daylight. After that you’ll need a headlamp; but don’t worry, that’s all part of the plan.

Winter Solstice Tips

Reserve a hut in advance for you and your friends. 

French-press, pour-over, espresso. However you enjoy your morning pick-me-up, you’re going to need it. Jump in the car before sunrise, which will be at 7:18 AM (MST) and head for the nearest mountain hut. It could be a cabin operated by a state park, some epic bungalow you found for rent, or a secret shack in the woods that allows overnight visitors. Maybe you’ve found one that’s only a mile away from the trailhead, or maybe you’ll need a topographical map and backcountry know-how to get there. Pick a place you’ll have fun getting to, since it might take all day.

Winter Solstice Tips

Take a time out from screen-time. Photo by Bryan Rowe.

Once you’ve arrived, it’s time to get out of your sweaty layers and unwind. Chop wood. Build a fire. Reflect on your adventures and misadventures of the past year. By the time your friends arrive by headlamp after they get off work, you’ll be recharged and ready to celebrate the changing of the seasons.

The sun will sink beneath the horizon at 4:39 PM, so plan on embracing the solstice with an after-hours activity. Sled down a route you scoped out earlier, or go for a snowshoe or cross-country ski (the moon will be almost full). Tell your friends to pack their puffies and light a bonfire to celebrate the end of a season and the beginning of another (just have someone else pack in all the firewood). As if we need to tell you how to spend a night with friends in the mountains.

Winter Solstice Tips

Just because the sun sets early doesn’t mean the fun has to. 

The next morning, cook up a phenomenal breakfast to welcome in the sun that will rise just a few precious seconds earlier than the day before. Returning to the middle of your work week might be bittersweet after an epic night in the mountains, but with that extra skip in your snowshoe that only mountain air can provide, you just might make it to Saturday, and summer beyond.

Winter Solstice Tips

Think warm thoughts. Summer is on the horizon! Photo by Bryan Rowe.

Have any tips on how to survive the shortest day of the year? We’d love to hear them in the comments below.

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