Find joy in winter by embracing outdoor activitiesJan 13, 2022 11:50AM ● By Karmel Harper
Adam’s Canyon in the winter can be magical. (Karmel Harper/City Journals)
By Karmel Harper | [email protected]
In just a few weeks, Punxsutawney Phil, the famous groundhog in Gobbler’s Knob, Pennsylvania, will emerge to predict when winter will end. For many people who hate the cold days, grey skies, and treacherous icy roads, they hope Phil does not see his shadow and predicts an early spring.
When Herriman residents were polled about how they feel about winter, 25% replied that they absolutely hate winter and are already counting down the days until spring. The cold and darkness are some of the factors why winter months trigger the onset of seasonal affective disorder or SAD, a type of depression that is related to a change in seasons.
Herriman’s Celeste Barrow Bruening said, “About mid-October I start to notice a drastic change in my attitude and outlook on life. I get an overwhelming feeling of dread just thinking about the cold. I hate everything about it. Not necessarily the snow, just the cold. The short dark days are a struggle and the grey, cloudy atmosphere is depressing.”
According to Mental Health America, Bruening is not alone as SAD affects over 10 million Americans a year. If you experience symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, please consult a mental health provider.
With the milder Utah winters in recent years, even winter haters admit that the snow is necessary for summer water levels. Herriman’s Katie Jo Stratton said, “I don’t love the snow like I did when I skied. But I want it to snow like it did in the '90s so we can have all the water we need in the lakes to play!"
Although most Utahns recognize snow is necessary for our desert state, the darkness, the cold, and the dangerous driving conditions incite a teeth-chattering, snow-shoveling, white-knuckle-driving tolerance of the season.
However, many Utahns absolutely love winter and all of the beauty and outdoor recreation it brings. The Brown family from South Jordan look forward to winter every year as they are avid skiers. Amanda Brown even works at Park City Mountain Resort every season for the sole purpose of providing ski lessons for her four children who range in age from six to 12. Brown said, “Winter can be long and dreary if you allow it to be. We wanted to instill a love of the season in our children at an early age by enrolling them in ski lessons since they were very young. Now we look forward to it every year as we can get outside as a family and enjoy something active together.”
Kaysville’s Margot Marrs Pauni said, “I absolutely hated winter and counted the days until it was over, and then I learned to ski. It made a huge difference in my attitude and mental well-being. Now I look forward to winter.” Pauni has been skiing for over 3 years.
If gliding downhill at 20+ mph while dodging other people and trees is not your thing, there are a multitude of other winter activities to try to experience Utah's famous "Greatest Snow on Earth.". Exploring our spectacular mountains is extremely popular during the spring, summer and fall, but winter hiking is in a class of its own. A trail that you have hiked many times during other seasons will look completely different when it is covered with snow and provides a new experience. Creeks will have frozen sections with icicles adorning rocky edges. Waterfalls will be partially or completely frozen, giving you a breathtaking and magical view. Trails such as Ogden’s Waterfall Canyon and Layton’s Adam’s Canyon offer awesome winter adventures with picture perfect vistas that Jack Frost will be proud of.
Herriman’s Rachel Dekker Moody said, “There is something magical about going for a ‘snow globe’ run early in the morning and hearing the crunch of snow under your feet and knowing you are the first footprints out for the day!”
Though cycling is typically a warm weather sport, winter riding has become popular since fat bikes emerged on the market. While standard mountain bikes have tire widths anywhere between 1.6” and 2.6”, a fat bike’s tires are 3.7” to 5”, allowing the rider to cruise through on snow-packed trails with greater traction and better handling. Various local bike dealers rent fat bikes so you can give it a try. Visit www.cyclingutah.com for suggestions on the best fat biking trails.
Sledding or inner tubing is another popular winter activity, and you don’t even have to go up into the mountains to enjoy it. Even a local park or neighborhood with a good slope can serve as a decent sledding hill. Sugar House Park in Salt Lake City and Eaglewood Golf Course in North Salt Lake have awesome hills that are free to sled and tube on. Or visit a designated sledding park such as Soldier Hollow Nordic Center in Midway or Woodward in Park City.
Avid fishermen don’t need to pack up their poles for the season as ice fishing is popular in Utah. Frozen lakes such as Strawberry Reservoir and even local ponds such as Farmington Pond and Bountiful Pond attract anglers of all ages once the ice is thick enough. The website Best Fishing in America said, “The season typically starts in mid to late December in Utah, depending on the weather. There are years when the hard water doesn’t set in until mid-January, while other years, it can happen in late November. A good rule of thumb is that 4 inches is thick enough for an average person, 5-6 inches is suitable for a snowmobile or 4-wheeler, and 8-12 inches will support a truck.”
Ice anglers use an ice auger with a 6-8” bit to drill a hole in the ice large enough to pull caught fish through. In addition to the appropriate fishing equipment, other gear such as ice tents and tent heaters can be used for additional warmth and comfort. The Watkins family from Davis County look forward to ice fishing every winter. Kaysville’s Shaylee Watkins said, “I love ice fishing because it’s fun to sit and snack out in a heated tent on the ice and get nice and comfy and kick your boots off.” North Salt Lake’s Challis Watkins said, “Ice fishing is like fishing but way better.”
It is important to be prepared before venturing outside during the winter months. Tolerating the cold is much easier with proper clothing and gear. Dressing in layers is a good practice because you will warm up as your activity level increases and you will be much more comfortable removing or adding layers as needed.
REI’s website suggests three basic layers: “1) Base layer (underwear layer): wicks sweat off your skin, 2) Middle layer (insulating layer): retains body heat to protect you from the cold, and 3) Outer layer (shell layer): shields you from wind and rain. Even if you don’t wear all three layers at the outset, it’s a good idea to take all layers on every outing. You can peel off layers if things heat up, but you can’t put on layers that you didn’t bring along.”
Other important gear includes warm head and ear coverings such as beanies and ear muffs, scarves, and waterproof gloves. Proper shoes such as waterproof boots that provide warmth and traction are a necessity. For additional traction, particularly on steep icy terrain, use crampons or microspikes, a mechanism that typically consists of spikes and chains that fit over your shoes and can be easily slipped off and on the trails as needed.
Driving during the winter is a big reason why many people hate the season so preparing your vehicle for the cooler months is important. Tips for winterizing your vehicle include testing your battery and tire pressure as battery power and tire pressure drop when the air temperature drops, changing to winter tires, checking wiper blades and replacing if needed, and always keeping at least a half tank of gas. Tips for winter driving include driving slower, increasing your following distance, and accelerating and decelerating slowly. But if it is snowing heavily, the best practice is to stay home if you can and avoid unnecessary risks.
Someone once said, “If you choose not to find joy in snow, you will have less joy in your life but the same amount of snow.” With proper gear, clothing, and other preparations to keep you warm along with an adventurous spirit to try something new, perhaps the multitude of winter activities Utah offers can coax your inner Elsa out as you declare, “The cold never bothered me anyway.”