By: Caleb Magoon
Winter in Vermont is a challenging time to get outside and keep up your physical activity. It’s often cold and snowy, yet sometimes it’s neither of those things. It often seems like only thing you can really count on is the weather not cooperating with what you want to do.
It’s still important to stay active and healthy, even when the weather isn’t ideal. Fresh air, vitamin D and a little exercise are all good for the body, mind and soul – especially during the winter. Here are a few activity suggestions and the gear you will need to help you stay active.
Walk and hike– Many new products have come out in recent years to help you keep
your traction on ice and snow. For walking, Yaktrax or Stabilicers can give you traction
on ice or snow. Katoolah makes “Nanospike,” perfect for running or walking, and “Microspikes,” the hot product for hiking and trekking. Katoolah also makes more aggressive crampons for Trekking. All of these products are great options for a snowless or minimal snow winter.
When it snows, snowshoes are very helpful, and plenty of options exist for any price and purpose.
Try Nordic skiing- You can’t beat the bang for your buck when it comes to Nordic, or cross-country, skiing. Once you have the gear, it’s easy to jump on a trail and go. Cross country skiing is low impact, fairly easy and a good mix of cardio and strength exercise. If you’re looking for a bit more of a workout, try Skate skiing. The Stowe Recreation path, the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, People’s Academy Trails and Cricket Hill Trails next to Lamoille Union High School are all great, free options. Check with your neighbor, too. Many locals groom their own trails. They’re everywhere!
Hop on a bike- You may have seen a bike with large tires floating around your town. These are fat bikes, made for ice or snow. While many of these bikes are higher end and made for enthusiasts, the prices have come down in recent years. There are now several models under $1000 and these bikes are a great way to get on the rail trail or a dirt road safely during the winter to get the legs spinning.
Ice skating- I know what you’re thinking: “You won’t catch me on those skinny blades!” Many towns maintain public ice rinks, and places like Smugglers’ Notch and Stowe Mountain Resort also have inexpensive or free skating. Plus, in a low snow year, plenty of ponds and lakes are accessible. (But make sure to be safe!) Skates have gotten much better in their performance and are now considerably warmer and more comfortable. Yes, I said comfortable! Finally, if you are leery about the stability of skating, bring something to help balance you. Use an upside-down trashcan, a walker or something similar to hold onto. Kids often use milk crates. This is a great way to maintain stability while getting your “skate legs.”
How to stay warm outside- It’s hard to have fun if you’re cold all the time. Invest in clothing and layers that are not cotton. Natural fibers like wool work best. Polyester is also better than cotton – these fibers help keep you dry and warm. Windstopper is a technology that can help keep you warmer in windy weather and Gortex helps to keep you dry. Lastly, if your face typically gets cold, buy a set of inexpensive goggles. Make sure they have a clear, not tinted lens. For just a few bucks, they help keep your face warm! You can also consult a ski or winter gear shop – they have lots of secrets on staying warm.
Whatever you do, don’t let winter weather keep you inside. Use it as a reason to get out! Try a few different activities to discover what you like best, and invest in the gear you need to stay warm and keep at it. Your physical and mental health will thank you during our long winters.
Caleb Magoon is a Hyde Park native who grew up hiking, hunting, biking and exploring Vermont’s Green Mountains. His passions for sports and recreation have fueled his career as the owner of Power Play Sports and Waterbury Sports. Caleb encourages outdoor activity and believes it is an essential element to a healthy lifestyle and the Vermont way of life. Caleb serves the Lamoille Valley by volunteering on numerous community boards such as the Lamoille County Planning Commission, The Morrisville Alliance for Commerce and Culture, Mellow Velo, and the state chapter of The Main Street Alliance. He lives, plays and works in Hyde Park with his wife Kerrie.