A few years ago I discovered how to dress for the snow and cold weather, and then a whole new world opened up for me. Once I figured out how to ski and snowshoe it was all over. I've always been more of a summer fan but I'm pretty torn these days. Luckily I don't need to pick one in Chicago. 🙂
Ah, Chicago. As a Georgia native who relocated to Chicago, I was woefully unprepared for those cold Midwestern winters. Some years laters I was a year-round bicycle commuter in the city. I have to say though, now that I'm back living in GA, i really don't miss the salty grey slush in my cassette and the always rusty chains. Still, I can't agree more. Winter recreation is about preparation and layers, and anyone who says it's too cold to enjoy the outdoors just hasn't tried it witht he right gear.
I liked winter anyways, but fatbiking definitely rounded out my options a little. Other than that, I continue my running/road-biking regimen, and we do a lot of snowshoeing too.
Can definitely relate. Only snowshoe/backpack (live in northern CA). Rationale, usually no crowds (mostly enoucountering no one), never have to plan next camp site near water - i.e., don't have to filter water from streams or lakes (as long as one calculates how much fuel needed to melt snow for water needed for the night, next morning, cooking food, warming hot chocolate, for not only next day's planned hike route and distance, but needed for entire backpacking hike duration, etc.), no bugs (e.g., mosquitos, ants, snakes, etc.), and no large animals. When one actually sees a small animal (e.g., fox, coyote, marmont, etc.), it is very cool to watch them just bound around. Also, for some reason the nights just appear to be more quiet and obviously the stars brighter the higher one climbs. Yes...clothing, boots, tent, sleeping bag, map reading (including elevation and distance determination), compass usage, cooking tools, food rationing and emergency equipment selection are absolutely critical because the weather could unexpectantly turn negative (have been in a number of "white-out" situations ) and thus had to wait out the storm (sometimes a couple of days) before moving on or returning back to my entry point (even once had to dig a "snowcave" during a snowshoe dayhike requiring a non-planned overnight stay and had no tent). Also, I don't like to follow fixed trails in the dirt and thus enjoy "cutting my own trail in the snow" with my snowshoes with the route I "just think would be interesting and picturesque ". Since I have been snowshoeing and backpacking a signifant number of years, have slowly upgraded my boots, clothing (both inner & outer), headgear, inne/outergloves, backpacks, sleeping bags, tents, cooking equipment, etc. to reduce weight to the absolute minimum but maintaining maximum warmth and cold protection necessary for survival (i.e., obviously resulting in somewhat costly equipment). Have taken a series of avalanche level courses (including personal signal transponders/receivers training in finding individuals who have been involved in avalances) to identify possible avalanch situations before I start climbing a moutain and/or route surrounded by mountains I selected for the day. By the way....the avalance courses I have taken included being placed in a 4 foot deep snow hole and being completly covered with snow to personally experience being buried under snow for a fixed period of time - obviously completely controlled by the avalance trainers - the experience definitley places a lasting impression in one's mind. Also, all my equipment is non-battery required, including my watch and compass (except two (2) extremely small flashlights and my ultra lightweight headlamp) because one cannot find oneself in a troublesome situation due to a battery operated piece of equipment failing due to the battery drains. Lastly, have climbed Mount Shasta a few times - once utilizing the Avalanche Gulch route (southern mountain facing - most utilized climb) and the rest the Hotlum Bolam Ridge route (i.e., the Northeast route). I prefer the latter route since it is less utlized due to glaciers and somewhat more difficult. Lastly, the primary reason I enjoy snowshoeing/backbacking is because one must be continously cognizant of "every step taken" (because a simple sprained ankle could be life threatening), pre-evaluating planned routes carefully, identifying emergency "alternate routes" if necessitated, having extra food if necessary, and just have "one's mind be completely focused" each moment you leave your trailhead or parked SUV until one returns to the said trailhead or parked SUV.
I think quiting smoking helped me enjoy it more too. When I actually go somewhere, I don't have to go backoutside in to the cold every hour or so. I can enjoy the warmth and appreciatte the cold when I go outside for something more meaningful.