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How are you playing in the snow this season?

Hey fellow snow enthusiasts! I don’t know about you, but I’m already starting to scheme about my winter adventures and indicators in the outdoor and resort industry point to dramatic shifts looming in the way we’re used to getting outdoors and recreating this winter. With several resort companies announcing reservation-only ticketing and continued uncertainty about how physical distancing requirements will impact operations and wait times on the mountains where we love to play, REI and other outdoor retailers are seeing early demand for equipment that will allow folks to get out to play in the snow without waiting in lift lines – think backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, fat tire biking!

I noticed that the Mountaineers in Washington State has already begun posting their winter sports classes and activities schedule, and snowshoeing classes are beginning to fill. And many local trail associations are beginning to prepare for an influx of snowshoers, XC skiers, and winter fat tire bikers. Just like we saw this summer on popular hiking trails, it’s likely that there will be a surge this fall/winter of folks who are hungry to get out and play (and it’s seeming likely that inventory in these categories may be hard to find).

So, we’re curious: how are you planning on getting outside this winter? Are you dusting off the XC skis you’ve always had around? Looking at a new pair of snowshoes or maybe a fat tire bike to try out a new way to play? Share your ideas below!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.
20 Replies

I have an ice axe and I wanna use it....or rather I want to hike somewhere that justifies my having it and hopefully not actually have to use it to self arrest!

I'm still using my axe!  As a prop on my wall!, lol, a monument to younger days long gone by, sigh.

Strictly trails for me from now on, avoiding bushwhacking, or trails like the AT in New Hampshire or Maine, (give me the wide open skies of where you live) , no sliding down slopes on my butt, (unless I get caught at the top of a mogul field, while skiing).

On a "I'm still at it note", finding this summer that I can carry 10days of food without killing myself might open some new options this coming summer backpacking season.  My wife doesn't like the idea of me going alone, so I may have to shell out for an in-reach.

Anyway, circling back around to winter and earlier bag vs quilt discussion, looks like I'll be back to my zero bag if and when I get out, leaving my 5f quilt in the closet.

I really have started to hate the 'confinement' of a bag, but when it gets really cold, say below 15, there is just no way to 'seal' the quilt around you, straps may hold it down, but really sealing the cold out is nigh impossible.

just random thoughts while am at it.

I just took a photo of my ice axe, now need to get it off my phone...



REI Member Since 1979

Hi @REI-ReinkeM 

Oh my... After seeing your post I am afraid my working day is out the window. Just kidding.

Living in Bay Area and trying to ski while working is not easy, and the looming social distancing is going to make the resort experience absolutely miserable. The natural answer to this is backcountry of all sorts, I plan to balance the Nordic touring with the Alpine touring, at least I will have more choices as far as the terrain is concerned. 

Also, plans are to get more experience in winter overnights, i.e. do some multiday touring, starting with relatively benign terrain (I consider myself a beginner in AT) and expand the range as I get better. Ideally, I will get more of my friends out in the snow, keeping my fingers crossed. 


The timing of this question is great. Unlike you, @REI-ReinkeM , I despise the Winter and snow. Or, at least, I *used* to. I've gotten active again this past year and in spite of everything else going on in the world, we have had one of (if not THE) best Summers as a family. Daily walks of 2+ miles, hiking, kayaking... So I have been dreading the end of the Summer/Fall.

With that said, this morning I realized I need to see what Winter activities I might want to investigate as a way to lessen the impact of the cold and dark season (unlike all of you sociopaths who are looking forward to Winter - said with love and respect, of course! LOL)

And then I found this post. No, I have no clue what I am going to be doing outdoors this Winter but I am really hoping that this thread will offer ideas. 

So far I have:

  • showshoes to keep going on hikes
  • tobogganing and sledding with the kids
  • …?

Budget for new gear is tight, but I would love to get some input and ideas from the others on how I can learn to enjoy Winter once again (in my teens I used to downhill ski a lot but those days are in the rear view mirror)

“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” (John Muir)

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

I know it is a matter of preference and I am one of those sociopathic people who counts the days until the snow falls, but pretty much everywhere you can go on snowshoes you can go on some off-track cross country skis but there are some ski trails you will miss out on because they don't allow snowshoeing.  If you liked downhill, cross country is a tamer version of that that combines hiking aspects.  With my kids, I usually don't use poles and instead pull them behind me using their skis with a slope rope (for trails) or a sled without their skis on (off trail).  Some would argue that snowshoes are easier to go uphill with, but I would disagree unless you are on a really tight uphill trek.

For the money, I would say snowshoeing or cross country will cost you about the same.  Depending on the age of your kids though and how much snow you typically get in your area, a good pair of winter boots, coat, hat, and gloves may be all your need to keep you hiking in the winter time. 

Sledding is probably the cheapest and should always be incorporated into winter, especially with kids, but you can get sleds at almost any store or even make your own.

REI has a boot, pole, and ski package deal and I think you get a discount if you buy 3 pairs at once if you are shopping for the whole family.  I would recommend NNN classic boots with on-track/off-track combo classic cross country skis (like Salomon Snowscape 7 or 9).  I think most REI stores rent in the winter too if you want to try before you buy.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Thanks for the reply!

I grew up on the Canadian prairies and also have done x-country skiing. But it was at the same time I was doing downhill so, for a 16 year old, x-country was the thing I "had to" do when I couldn't hit the slopes LOL

But it's worth trying again - I think there is an REI near me that rents the equipment. Definitely won't buy anything for the kids until I know they like it.

Definitely will try out snowshoeing!!

Ahhhh, sledding... I can neither confirm nor deny that I may or may not have... (cough)(cough) "borrowed" cafeteria trays in college, waxed them up, and used them as toboggans (after having some beverages). Not sure why I am not dead yet.

“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” (John Muir)

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.


One option I really enjoyed in the winter in Alaska was the Black Diamond Glidelite skis. They're sort of in this odd, hybrid classification of winter travel: not quite nordic skis and not exactly snowshoes. Basically they are a snowshoe binding (sort of) mounted on a short and wide ski with metal edges and a permanent skin attached underfoot. The term 'skishoes' gets thrown around a lot when describing these.

They're super fun on rolling terrain, mediocre on steep uphills (and downhills), but are a very easy way to get out in the snow in the winter. If you've got trekking poles already, really all you need are the skis as you can strap any kind of boot into them. I had and used the 147 length, but sold them when we moved from Alaska. If I went with them again I'd likely go shorter (127) as they can be challenging to turn.

Hopefully you're able to find something fun to do in winter, it really is a great time to get outside!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Thanks @REI-JohnJ  - I've never seen those before. They look like fun

“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” (John Muir)

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

I also did not have the appreciation for x-country and viewed in much like you did.  "Well can't go alpine skiing today, I guess I will do this instead."  I appreciate it much more now as a good chance to be out in nature, but yeah I would still rather be on the slopes.  Try skate skiing if you are up for a challenge, this will take some endurance training or frequent stops though, but it is much faster and more dynamic form of x-country.  In Canada, Skikes are quite popular for continuing the x-country experience, even in the summer time.  They are loads of fun for kids and adults.

From the Skike website.From the Skike website.

@REI-JohnJ  is correct about the Glidelites and they are a good cross between snowshoes and x-country.  I find them much too slow on downhills, but Black Diamond makes excellent gear, may be something there for you.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

I'm leaving the lift lines and the shared lifts for those at lower risk (or greater risk tolerance) than me. I'm shopping for XC Skis and gear for both groomed trails and for back country skiing. Last February as the pandemic was closing in we got up to Yosemite for their last skiable weekend of the season. It was my first time cross country skiing since 1997. A few weeks later my daughter and I went cross country on and off track at Bear Valley CA. This reminded me how much cross country is like hiking in the summer, but without the crowds. It is also a much better aerobic workout than downhill. And of course, XC  is an order of magnitude less expensive than downhill. 

So as I mentioned above, I'm shopping for my gear for this winter. Which brings me to another point. My local REI (Dublin CA) does not carry any XC Ski gear. They have a great selection of downhill gear, but the store employees confirmed that the store would not be carrying XC gear this year. Sure, they have snow shoes, but I've already got a pair of snow shoes. Yes, there is a limited selection of XC gear at, but REI really shines when you talk with the store employees and benefit from their deep knowledge of the sport and the gear. 

So how about it REI. Let's see some cross country ski gear in the stores and help skiers discover another winter sport that reduces our risk during the pandemic. IMG_1200.jpg