Tips to Recreate Responsibly This Winter

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Winter provides a short window to take part in snow fun for many winter recreationists and adventure seekers. This can be a special time to experience outdoor spaces and public lands under a blanket of snow or simply during an off season for regions of the country that don’t experience snowfall.

Now more than ever it is important to be cautious when skiing, snowmobiling, snowboarding, and any other winter activity in what may become difficult harsh conditions.  Here are a few tips to #RecreateResponsibly during the winter months.

A guide for creating a safe, fun outdoor winter recreation community

Check the status

Photo of a backcountry ski adventure in the Boise National Forest

Boise National Forest (Paul Dawson, Share the Experience)

Taking the time to plan your destination wisely, allowing for different plans will help in case unexpected weather or unsafe conditions arise during your trip.  Travelling only in areas designated for your type of winter travel will also help secure your safety and those around you.  Before commencing on your journey, check the mountain passes and forecasts, as tire chains may be required.  Patience is key, winter conditions may make driving, parking, and traffic much more intense.

Gear Up

Abrupt blue sky above snow covered trails provides a unique experience for young hikers.

North Cascades National Park (Philip Cho, Share the Experience)

Traveling with the appropriate gear during winter is essential for your safety.  Remember layers of clothing may be adjusted as conditions change.  Accomplished snow recreationists choose to pack survival gear such as: extra socks and gloves or mittens, matches in a waterproof container, fire starter, lots of high-energy food, space blanket, first aid kit, shovel, a probe, and an avalanche beacon.  Snowmobilers should be carry tools necessary for emergency repairs, experienced ones carry snowshoes, in case of equipment failure.

Take Nature Seriously

Snowmobile guided tour along the Firehole River in Yellowstone.

Yellowstone National Park (Sarah Tracy, Share the Experience)

Avalanches are complex, natural phenomena that can catch even the most experienced backcountry enthusiast by surprise.  Know your limits.  The more time spent in winter activities increases the chance of being caught by an avalanche.  Having some avalanche knowledge is crucial for backcountry travel.  Let people know where you are going and when you plant to return.

Practice Winter Wellness

Night hiking below the spectacular sky at Mount Rainier National Park.

Mount Rainier National Park (Surafel Mammo, Share the Experience)

Being respectful of others will help ensure a healthy environment for recreation.  In indoor spaces, cover your nose and mouth, as well as maintain six feet or more of social distancing.  As always, if feeling sick please stay home.  Opting to share a meal and rest in the beautiful outdoors is a clear example of practicing meaningful wellness.  Make sure to carry out everything you carry into a recreation area, properly dispose of any litter, and perform safe sanitation procedures.

Keep Our Winter Playground Safe and Fun

Kayakers approach the massive expanse of the Reid Glacier.

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve (John Donofrio, Share the Experience)

Access to public lands depends on a shared value of interconnectedness among visitors. There may be limited parking so appropriately parking will ensure space for others.  Be conscious of any impacts to the surrounding community.  Try shopping locally and learn a fun, significant cultural or historical fact to share with friends.  Avoid areas with low snow as traveling in these conditions will damage plants and soils just below the snow’s surface.  And, always respect established ski tracks when traveling by foot and snowshoe.

Create Safe, Inclusive Access

Reaching the summit of West McMillan Spire with open arms.

North Cascades National Park (Aaron Wilson, Share the Experience)

Engaging in a safe outdoor environment while recreating with others is fundamental for a positive welcoming experience.  Our public lands host a diverse number of visitors, and inclusive approaches to recreation helps carve a path for underrepresented communities to access winter activities.  As experienced winter recreationists, choosing to share the snow by extending help to communities who historically do not partake in winter recreation will contribute to building an inclusive outdoor community.

Mindful Group

Skiers approach and ascend the route during a winter storm.

Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests (Andrew Strohmeier, Share the Experience)

Making the proper arrangements for your group will help ease your winter experience.  Be mindful of extra logistics (trails, parking, rental shops, permits, etc.) it may take to accommodate groups.  Seek creative ways to streamline and minimize your impacts on others with friends and families.  Large groups should create a buddy system so everyone is accounted for and can quickly act in case of emergency.  In the end, have fun and follow local health guidelines.

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