Script/Outline: How to Enjoy Walking/Hiking in the Winter
Sheryl is a Hiking Tour Guide in Utah and has lead hundreds of hikes every week throughout the year since February 2003. Whether it’s zero or 110 degrees, rain, snow, wind or sunshine, she’ll be doing what she loves the most - leading outdoor enthusiasts into the Wasatch Mountains just minutes from Salt Lake City, Utah.
How to Enjoy Walking or Hiking in the Winter
Here in Utah, you might be surprised to see HOW MANY people LOVE hiking, walking and snowshoeing in all types of cold weather. We do it every day around our neighborhoods and in the mountains and absolutely LOVE IT!
Speaking from personal experience: I hike at least 3 – 4 times every week in the winter – generally around 3 - 4 hours per day and haven’t been sick at all for several years since I’ve been doing it. I don’t experience depression, winter blues or cabin fever. I get more done and feel happy and energized!
Physical Conditioning – Consult your physician if you are new to exercise like walking very much or hiking.
How to get started: Stay close to home. Practice walking around your block in the beginning. Test your clothing out. See how well you stay warm when you are out in the weather for 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, etc.
When should you go:
For more daylight, Start a little later around 9 or 10 am since the days are shorter. Remember it gets dark by 4:30 or 5 pm. After December 21st the days begin to grow longer until July.
Winter Moonlight Hikes/walks – 6 – 9 pm, It’s not very dark with all the snow on the ground and so beautiful outside.
Winter mountain hiking conditions
Here in Utah, MANY people are always up in the mountains walking on snowpacked trails in even 0 degrees or colder.
It’s amazing how many people love to get out in the winter cold weather.
What is a snowpacked trail?
What is a single-track trail?
Types of snow to avoid unless you are prepared:
Deep Snow - unless you have snowshoes and proper gear.
Icy trails – Heating and cooling during the day from the Sun - You need yak trax and good common sense, we’ll talk more about Yak Trax
Muddy Trails – Can be very slippery unless frozen
What are YAK TRAX and why do you need them? Ice, black ice
Why do you need poles to walk/hike with? Flat light, sprained ankles
WHY should you get outside in the winter?
Depression and Winter Blues – Feeling like a shut in makes you sick, irritable, depressed, angry
White snow makes you feel SO good. – Feel like a kid again and enjoy the snow
Fresh air – even if it’s cold – makes you feel great!
You can also wear the same type of clothing you wear outside, INSIDE to stay warmer if you like
Urban Walks – You don’t even need to leave the city. Some of our favorite winter hikes or walks are not up in the mountains but downtown SLC – day or night. We pick several places to walk to throughout the city – in our case we start at a large outdoor, then over to our largest tourist attraction, Temple Square, then over to TV Station then an Outdoor Ice-Rink, then to the new SLC Library where we walk up 5 flights of stairs to the top of the Library then back down and work our way back. In all, we cover about 3.5 miles in about 2 hours. It’s a great way to get to know a section of your city that you would never see zooming past in a car. Here in SLC it’s a LOT of fun and very safe.
How to Understand Mountain Temperatures in the Winter:
Valley – Don’t judge the temperature for our hikes based on how you feel in your front yard.
Canyon Floor – always colder
Higher Altitudes above the valley floor and canyon floor – generally much warmer than canyon floor, can be as much as a 20 – 30 degree difference from the canyon road to the trails above the canyon floor/road.
SIDES of a Mountain - North-facing vrs south facing: – North-facing: colder w/ less sun, South-facing: warmer w/ more sun. Learn which trails are north-facing and which are south-facing. Many times we try to hike trails on North-facing slopes in the hottest part of the summer and hike trails on South-facing slopes in the coldest part of the winter.
How to keep your fingers warm – mittens, hand warmers, move to generate body heat – don’t stand still, keep hands dry, stay away from cotton, make friends with someone who is ALWAYS warm – hold their hand temporarily or switch to their warm gloves or mittens.
How to keep your toes warm – Toe warmers, stay dry, avoid cotton fabrics, wear smart wool socks, always bring an extra pair if you should get cold and/or wet, move and generate body heat
How to keep your whole body warm:
Just move! Moving will generate body heat. The hardest part of a walk or hike in the winter is the very beginning before you really get moving.
When you do start to move, try to move fast.
If you are walking with a group on a single track trail and they are walking to slow, be polite, let them know you need to pass them.
Get your blood pumping as soon as possible and you’ll notice a HUGE difference for the rest of the hike.
Why is Controlling your Thoughts so important when you are outside:
You will be cold at first. Plan on it.
Don’t be tempted to go into NEGATIVE MODE: That’s when you start seeing ONLY the negative in everything around you and it actually makes it worse for not only you but for everyone around you. You feel like whining, complaining, moaning and groaning, woe is me!
Instead tell yourself “I can do hard things”, “I’m a tough person.” Think positive thoughts and you’ll be amazed how much easier it gets real fast.
Realize it’s only temporary. Once you get moving it gets a lot better. Standing around for very long is the most difficult part of winter hiking.
What to bring on a walk or a hike:
Essentials – Water, healthy snacks, yak trax, sunglasses, hat, warm gloves, glove liners, Dress in layers - easy to peel off thin layered clothing, lightweight shoes or boots, thin face-mask, trekking poles, an extra pair of smart wool socks, lip balm, camera
What type of Clothes are best: – Nylon, synthetic types of fabric, Cotton is the WORST since it absorbs water, wicking light weight fabrics. In 0 degrees I walked/hiked in 3 layers of thinner pants: long underwear, and two other thin layered pairs of pants and was just fine. Dress LIKE AN ONION.
How to avoid getting wet when walking/hiking:
Water and moisture come from inside your clothes (like sweat and perspiration) and outside your clothes like from snow and rain. That’s why it’s critical to stay away from Cotton. You will become a SOGGY mess and if you are wet, you WILL be cold. If you wear clothes made from fabrics that keep your dry, you will be warm
Shoes – LIGHTWEIGHT boots or regular walking/hiking shoes. I use the same shoes for winter hiking that I do in the summer.
Purchasing gear and clothing for less
1) Know what to look for at Outdoor Recreational Stores like REI, etc.
2) Saving money on clothes: Check thrift stores, consignment shops or watch for sales
3) Here in Utah these stores have a wide variety and great selection of perfect winter clothing for very little money.
4) The key is to know what to look for before you begin to shop.
5) Know what kind of fabrics to look for and what kind to stay away from.
6) Ask the sales clerks about fabrics and types of clothes.
7) Get to know some of the popular outdoor clothing brands.
Keep it inside your backpack since it may freeze on you during a cold walk/hike.
Depending on how far you go, bring 2 liters of water. Always have plenty of water with you.
Don’t be fooled in thinking that your body doesn’t need to drink much water for winter hiking/walking.
It does and you will pay dearly if you don’t drink.
Bring a little extra for someone else you are walking/hiking with who might have underestimated the importance of drinking water.
We have rescued many people over the course of 5 years of winter hiking/walking because they didn’t bring or drink water on the trail.
Get in the habit of taking healthy food with you whereever you go
Whether on a hike or just stepping out the door.
Take a backpack with you - whether hiking, walking or not.
It helps you resist stopping at fast food restaurants/convenience stores and picking up expensive food that doesn’t have much nutritional value.
Pack whole grain cookies, granola bars, trail mix, fresh fruit, dried fruit, etc.
If you ever needed food in an emergency you would already be in the habit of having food with you
Help someone: even if you aren’t the one with problems, you may be in a position to help someone else out who doesn’t have any food or water.
Find someone to walk or hike with – it’s more fun and it’s safer.
How to start your own little hiking or walking group -
Parking concerns at trailheads – There isn’t as much room to park in the winter as there is in the summer because of where the snow plows push snow.
Carpooling w/ compatible hikers/walkers – Make sure you catch a ride with someone who is going to hike about as long as you do. Recently we’ve been having a few more challenges in this area OR just make sure that there are people going down sooner or later that you could catch a ride with.
Dangers and Hazards of Winter Hiking – KNOW A FEW BASICS - Avalanches, hypothermia, whiteouts, storms, know what is underneath the snow before you walk on it, frostbite,