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Enjoying the Mountains in Winter

 
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Winter is gradually making its grand appearance with sinking temperatures and driving snow. After the wintry mix is plowed and the wind abates, it’s time to head outside for some wintertime exploration. The detail, clarity, and focus across multiple mountain ranges are most spectacular in the deep of winter. Closer views are just as thrilling because the bare trees reveal details on the landscape that are easy to miss when blocked by rich foliage.

[This blog was originally posted in January 2015, but we thought the information was just as relevant to share today.]

Promises of breathtaking views and clean mountain air lure adventurers out to snowy trails for cold-weather recreation. Many folks take to the outdoors to enjoy two of their favorite wintertime traditions, snowshoeing and cross country skiing.

0115-alaina-drawdy-cox-winter-hike-3.jpgIntroduced by Native Americans, snowshoes make it safer and easier to trek on snowy fields by distributing a person’s weight over a larger area, so feet don’t sink into the snow. Trails buried in winter white become easily accessible exploration routes with snowshoes acting as a kind of flotation device above the deep layered powder. Look for a pair with secure bindings and aggressive traction that will work in deep and steep conditions.

You may also enjoy slipping on a pair of cross-country skis, grabbing poles, and easily propelling yourself through a snowy wood this winter. Cross-country skis help decrease the difficulty of transporting your pack and tent deep into the winter forest. You can get a great aerobic workout by simply cruising ski trails, or you may want to intensify your exercise by pushing your pace or cross-country skiing up a hill.

Hiking poles are a wise addition to any winter trek. Poles offer balance and support, and some brands offer poles that double as tripods. Removable handles reveal hardware to screw on your camera for capturing the breathtaking winter landscape. The air quality in winter provides favorable conditions for clear vista views that aren’t easily captured through the haze of other seasons.

There’s no need to feel trapped inside with a serious case of “cabin fever” this winter.

Last weekend, we experienced some unusually sunny weather and mild temperatures for the Blue Ridge Mountains in late January. We usually head up to the Blue Ridge Parkway for short family hikes on Sunday mornings. Due to several lengthy portions of road closures along the Parkway this year, we experienced the thrill of walking along the popular road without the concern of vehicular traffic. Check out this map for information about where you can access the Parkway, park your car, and take a gander. Remember to leash your dog, watch for black ice on the pavement during inclement weather, and practice road safety as cyclists are enjoying freedom on closed portions of the Blue Ridge Parkway, too. The Blue Ridge Parkway is also a popular destination for cross-country skiers. Flat trails in spots like Moses Cone or even the roadbed in closed sections are attractive locations for first tracks.

0115-alaina-drawdy-cox-winter-hike-2.jpgBack in town, a sure fire way to stay head over feet is by stretching YakTrax over a pair of casual walking shoes or hiking boots. Why spend the winter anxiously negotiating unsure footing in the ice and snow? This easy-to-use and lightweight traction device utilizes coils to grip the slippery surfaces and to provide traction. The sturdy YakTrax outer band conforms to most any pair of shoes, making them winter-ready and secure, and they slip off in an instant when you return indoors.

There’s no need to feel trapped inside with a serious case of “cabin fever” this winter. The sky is a stunning shade of blue on clear days, and the faintest forest sounds are magnified by the hush of freshly fallen snow. Layer up and get out there!

Next time, we’ll explore winter hiking tips for the novice and experienced outdoorsman and woman. We’ll also check in with our Mast Store photographers for tips on how to get the perfect wintry shot on your outdoor adventure. Stay tuned.