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Some people would have you believe that hiking is a 3-season activity. Assuming a concerned tone, they’ll warn you about frigid temperatures, park closures, and impassable trails. And, to a certain extent, they might be right. In the United States, winter is a season for skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating. Or gathering around a fireplace with a few friends and a mug of hot cocoa or mulled wine.
Hikers should know however, that they don’t have to put off their kind of fun until the spring thaw, even if the snowdrifts outside continue to grow. They simply need to pick up a new piece of gear: snowshoes. A basic pair will only cost a little more than the waterproof, Gore-Tex boots you probably already own. Once you’ve chosen your snowshoes, all you need to do next is dress in layers, pack plenty of snacks and water (and maybe a few hand warmer packets just in case), and select a trail. To get you started, here’s a short list of state parks in the Northeast with winter trails and on-site rental facilities. Read more
Looking to squeeze in one last winter adventure before temperatures start to climb in the spring? Consider Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and the nearby Grand Teton National Park, both of which offer breathtaking, snow-swept landscapes, an abundance of winter sports, and a welcome absence of the fanny-pack-wearing masses of tourists who descend in warmer months.
Exploring these stunning national parks – Yellowstone is the country’s first, designated as such in 1872 by the Western explorers who were dazzled by its beauty – is a perfect respite for shredded quads after skiing in nearby Jackson, or a stand-alone trip for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or traveling by snow coach or snowmobile.
Plus, it’s supremely affordable: An entrance fee of $25 per car for 7-day period covers admittance to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.
With many ski resorts dumped with snow after the recent barrage of blizzards, the slopes are certainly calling. But, if you’re like me, so are the credit card bills, which means it will be a while before I can indulge in some schussing sans guilt.
Good timing, then, on several free outdoorsy offerings sure to get you outside and into high gear, burning off some of that holiday pudge (but not money) in the process. Another bonus? They take place across the country, so no matter where you are, you won’t have to travel too far to take advantage.
The first: This Saturday, January 8, is the 16th annual Winter Trails Day, which aims to get cross-country skiing and snowshoeing newbies out on – you guessed it – the trails. Nearly 100 resorts and Nordic centers in 21 states are participating in the event (photo above courtesy of RDB Events), which last year attracted about 11,000 visitors, according to event spokesperson Reese Brown. It’s also a great way for downhill junkies to get a taste of a new means of moving across the snow.
With no long lines, parking hassles, or expensive lift tickets involved, it’s no wonder snowshoeing has become the fastest-growing winter sport. This centuries-old mode of transport – according to some figures, the first snowshoes were used by migrating cultures around 3,000 or 4000 B.C. – has enjoyed an unprecedented surge as of late, with millions of enthusiasts strapping on their shoes every year.
Unlike its downhill cousins, snowshoeing is relatively cheap (you’ll pay less for your own pair of shoes than two lift tickets) and accessible (anybody with an adventurous spirit can do it) – you simply strap on your shoes and go. Plus, you’ll still get the exhilaration of communing with nature and amazing views, not to mention a killer workout.
Snowshoeing is an ideal option for anybody who’s ready for a change from the slopes (or the sliding motion of cross-country skiing). In addition, because you only need about a foot of snow, you can do it just about anywhere there’s white stuff (though make sure to follow trail etiquette). Here, a few ideal destinations where you can get trekking. Read more
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