Tips to Recreate Responsibly This Winter

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Snow may be falling near you and winter fun is just beginning. Whether you are experiencing your public lands under a blanket of snow or simply enjoying a snow-free off-season, the outdoors is a great place to be this time of year.

No matter where you are in the country, it is important to be cautious when skiing, snowmobiling, snowboarding, or enjoying any other winter activity in what may become difficult harsh conditions. Our friends at Recreate Responsibly remind us that in the winter, the environment changes quickly and access points may be more limited. It may not be cold or snowing close to home, but that could change quickly as you venture out. Here are tips to help you Recreate Responsibly this winter season.

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

Plan and Prepare

Two people climb a snowy trail through the mountains

Rocky Mountain National Park (Jeremy Janus, Share the Experience)

When planning your trip, take the time to research your destination carefully and have backup plans in case unexpected weather or unsafe conditions arise during your trip. Be aware that some locations close seasonally or have limited staff or hours. 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 difficult. Travel only in areas designated for your winter activity for your safety and the safety of those around you.

Gear Up

Group of recreationists ride five white snowmobiles down a snowy road.

Yellowstone National Park (David Keljo, Share the Experience)

Traveling with the appropriate gear during winter is essential for your safety. Remember to pack layers of clothing, which can 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 carry tools necessary for emergency repairs; experienced ones carry snowshoes, in case of equipment failure. Always know your limits and have a backup plan in case of emergency.

Take Nature Seriously

Chain of eleven hikers scaling a snow-covered mountain during a blizzard.

Mt. Hood National Forest (Peter Thomas, 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 plan to return.

Create Safe, Inclusive Access

A young child bundled in winter clothes spreads their arms to catch falling snowflakes

Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Lana Wright, Share the Experience)

Everyone deserves to experience a winter wonderland. We all play an active role in creating a safe, welcoming, and positive outdoor environment for all recreationists. Our public lands are for everyone. As experienced winter recreationists, choosing to share the snow by extending kindness and guidance to visitors who historically do not participate in winter recreation will contribute to building an inclusive outdoor community.

Leave No Trace

A snowshoe hare covered in snow peeks its head above a snowbank

Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests (Loren Merrill, Share the Experience)

As always, it is important to respect the land, water, wildlife, and Indigenous communities in and around public lands. Pack out all waste, including pet waste. Learn how to Leave No Trace in winter.

Keep Our Winter Playgrounds Safe and Fun

Seven people on skis ski across a flat icy trail

Superior National Forest (Lance Cheung, US Forest Service)

Access to public lands depends on a shared value of interconnectedness among visitors. Parking may be limited, so parking appropriately will ensure space for others. Be conscious of any impacts to the land and surrounding communities. 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.

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