Do you remember, when you were a kid, going out into your backyard after a newly fallen snow? Everything was white and soft and quiet. The air shimmered with floating crystals, and it felt like your yard, and the entire world was one and the same. The crisp air carried a spark into your lungs with each breath you took in. Anything was possible.
Whether you remember this experience from times gone by or its something you’ve never had and still long for, I can personally say, that it can be found by snow hiking. Snow hiking has the potential to change your life yet many people have never even considered it. And if you’re one of those people, I want to change that!
Here are my top 5 reasons why snow hiking should make its way to the top of your to-do list this winter.
The quiet is electrifying
A forest in the summer is transparent in its life. You can hear the mountain chickadee’s and the blue-eyed junco’s singing from the trees. You can see the green tipped underbrush stretching toward life and light. You can feel the constant buzz of the native insects dancing at the edge of your awareness.
But in winter, all is silence.
The silence holds the promise of life close to its heart, buried under several feet of snow. You cannot hear it, you cannot see it, you cannot feel it. And yet, something about it tickles your consciousness. You know that life is there. And you know, that it knows you are there.
This silence, bursting with possibility, is broken only by the whisper of your footsteps and the occasional settling of the earth as tree branches drop their burdens of snow.
This silence must be experienced, must be felt, to be understood. So walk into the forest, hike through the snow and let the quiet surround you.
Solitude is good for you
“I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Many of us, if not most, do not know how to be alone. Loneliness is a rising health risk, and many have called the newer generations, the loneliest generations in America. Understanding how to be alone can help take the power out of loneliness. Snow hiking is an opportunity to go places few others will go and practice being your own companion. Popular summer trails may be more or less deserted in the winter time.
A safe way to get a good dose of alone time is to go snow hiking with a friend and then one of you hang back far enough that you can no longer see eachother. This way you are within shouting distance if there is a problem, but you are still able to experience the healing nature of the winter scenery and solitude.
Remember, please be cautious and prepared. Check the weather forecast. Don’t hike alone in unfamiliar areas. And be sure to let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back.
Build new bonds
At the opposite end of the spectrum, snow hiking can be a great opportunity to forge new friendships and strengthen old ones. Listening to the silence with a close friend can be a very special experience. And participating in any new activity can help you find a common interest with someone you may not have known well before.
Hidden treasures abound
Many secrets lie behind the snow-laden pine trees or just beneath the blanket covering the earth. You may find treasures waiting around every corner.
Perhaps a frozen ice-flow forms from seep springs in the cliff wall. Perhaps a babbling brook has carved out tunnels for itself underneath the snow drifts. Perhaps the boughs of a giant spruce tree create a snow cave for you to crawl inside. Maybe you will find a perfect snow slide down a steep hill.
The critters write their stories with their footprints across the snow as they conduct their business of survival. They leave a record for you to read that you could never find in summer.
Beat the SAD’s
Many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (seasonal depression or the winter blues) because winter brings shorter days, colder weather and therefore less exposure to the outdoors. But this doesn’t have to be the case.
It is a well-studied fact that time spent in the outdoors works wonders for reducing depression and anxiety. Winter does not have to stop you from receiving the benefits of the natural world. Don’t let the cold scare you. Snow hiking is the perfect way to continue to be nurtured by the earth throughout the winter. In fact, every reason I have listed thus far is a contributor to helping you stay mentally and physically healthy.
Time spent in nature is a form of meditation. Winter hiking can help you reach a state of flow, release stress, and experience a state of renewal.
See the world from a whole new perspective
The world experiences a kind of rebirth in the snow. Winter bathes the earth in a new, softer, brighter skin. Even your most familiar stomping grounds become new territory to explore.
This new perspective brings with it new challenges to overcome. These challenges can help you grow and increase in your confidence and abilities. You can learn to navigate safely in winter landscapes, dress properly for the weather, or even how to decipher animal tracks.
Let the winter world teach you something new.
I use the term snow hiking but I mean to encompass many forms of winter travel. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are two other ways to access each of the benefits mentioned in this article.
I hope you will let yourself be dazzled and choose to go snow hiking. The world is still waiting as you sit inside your house. Don’t wait for it to get warm again. Take advantage of the amazing opportunity to experience nature in one of the most pristine seasons.
If you enjoy hiking in the snow and have an experience you would like to share, please reach out in the comments below.