On one hand, winter brings with it a million opportunities for being active outside. On the other hand, the cold and dark that comes with it can force you to stay inside. Being ready to take advantage of both situations is key to making the most of your winter. We’ve got a ready-made checklist to help you get great at the things you’re good at, blast through boredom, bust through plateaus and spend your winter in worthwhile ways.
Ski With A Guide Or Expert Friend
Skiers sometimes carry on for years with the same routine, sometimes on the exact same runs. This lack of change is a recipe for getting bored and ending the day early at the lodge. To keep skiing (or snowboarding) interesting requires vigilance. Luckily, it’s easy to amp up the difficulty, even at a resort you’ve been to many times.
The first, obvious answer is to ski a hard run you’ve never tried. If you usually regard black diamonds as your limit, try a double black. If you’re a double black skier, pick a new line down the double black, or try it on a day when conditions are difficult. Extreme conditions are something to be embraced, not avoided. It takes better technique and more guts to ride that terrain — and we could all use a bit of both.
Up next would be to take a lesson. You may ask why, since you already know how to ski and haven’t had a lesson since you were six, but a session with a talented skier can remind you what refined technique looks like. Try to get a one-on-one session, and if possible, ask around for an excellent instructor who is dying to lose the beginner groups and head for the steeps. This kind of lesson should be like skiing with a friend, not a teacher. If you have an actual friend who is that skilled, buy them a burger and ask them to spend the afternoon with you. Follow their lines through the trees and moguls and try to match their speed. Mimic a great skier to become great yourself.
Join A Climbing Gym
If you spend the spring and summer climbing in the outdoors, climbing indoors is a dynamite way to make the most of the wet and cold winter. Climbing demands an amalgam of upper body power and endurance, core strength and coordination. Because of that, if you have no other gym membership, you’ll get most of what you need out of this one. Besides towering walls studded with holds (please, don’t call them grips) most rock gyms have a small assortment of free weights, pull-up stations and treadmills. Nowadays, any self-respecting gym has a plethora of yoga and pilates classes, too, which are often thrown in for free.
If you already have a membership to a gym, you’ll want a membership (or a package of day passes) to a rock gym specifically. The reason? Regular gyms get boring and, unless you assiduously change up your workouts and push your limits, you will hit a plateau. Climbing will challenge your muscles in new and invigorating ways that sometimes aren’t revealed until next-day soreness sets in. It will also sharpen your reflexes and your mind. A boulder problem is called a problem for a reason. Solving a unique sequence of movements requires your brain to work with your hands and feet.
Virtually all rock gyms offer belay or technique lessons, sometimes in the same class. Beginners will want to do both, and a class is a fine way to learn the gym, meet some new people and get off the ground.
Not so long ago, snowshoes were these funny, tennis-racquet-shaped things that looked like they’d be better at shoveling snow than floating on top of it. Once dubbed “slow-shoes,” today’s snowshoes are made with superlight, ultra-strong materials that are sleek and speedy. They grip running shoes as if they weren’t there and chomp down securely on icy, hard-packed snow. There’s virtually no excuse not to take them into the snowy wilds for a spin.
Theses things are so good, they’ve given life to winter marathons and even ultra-marathons in the snowiest climes. You don’t have to sign up for a winter marathon (though soon enough, you’ll probably want to), but taking them to the local track after a heavy snowstorm is an excellent way to get started. You may find that snowshoe running is what your winters have been missing.
Learn A New Sport
The only problem with being an athlete dedicated to one or two sports is that sooner or later you get comfortable. When you get comfortable, you get bored. When you get bored, you don’t try as hard.
The answer? Learn a new sport. Pick up something totally new, or re-dedicate yourself to something you haven’t done much of lately. This could mean trying something from our Extreme Winter Sports To Try This Year feature. Have you always wanted to try snowkiting? Or maybe glissading? If you can find a sport that acts as cross-training for your main activity, all the better.
Learning a new sport will cause you to exercise muscles that lay dormant during your usual workouts. What’s more, forming new muscle memory patterns is good for the brain. If you find you don’t love glissading after a winter of twice-weekly games, you’ll appreciate your soccer or baseball league more next season.
Climb A Challenging Mountain
Winter without mountains would be like snow without water. They are essential. So, this winter, find a mountain — any mountain at all — and climb it. Or run, or ski, or hike it. A mountain of any size can be a playground. If the mountains out your back door are too easy to climb with a rope, then do a solo ascent. If they are too small to provide interesting climbing, then run to the top.
Use a mountain, even just one, as an opportunity to warm up for bigger things or test some new winter gear. Whatever it may be, find a reason to climb up. You won’t regret it.