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Lisa Maloney

Hike Smarter, Not Harder, This Winter

By January 30, 2013

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Hiker overlooking a frozen lake in winterI'll never get tired of winter hiking. (Good thing, seeing as how I live in wintry Alaska!) I don't get out as often as I do during the summer -- limited daylight and occasional extreme temperatures, paired with fiendish winds, will do that -- but every time I hit a snow-covered trail, it's a new adventure.

Even if the trail sees lots of traffic, all it takes is one turn off the trampled path to see totally blank, white snow in front of me. A glance over my shoulder, and I see that my footprints still follow me everywhere. Snow and giant hoarfrost crystals accumulate on every remotely horizontal -- even on me. Thick snow weights slender trees down into unlikely shapes and, sometimes, if you're standing in just the right place at the wrong time, those spring-loaded trees will dump that snow down the back of your jacket.

That's the upside of winter hiking. There are a few downsides too -- but as long as you know what to watch out for, they're entirely manageable. That's why I believe so strongly in educating yourself (and your hiking buddies) about the hazards of winter hiking.

Sometimes that can mean spending a little money -- wilderness survival classes, first responder classes and avalanche hazard/rescue workshops can be pretty pricey -- but it doesn't have to. You can find a lot of the same skills covered at a basic level in free workshops; check with your local nature centers and park/forest service for a start. Sometimes outdoor gear retailers can hook you up with free classes or community connections as well. Books are another great learning resource (hit the library and get 'em for free!), and our Survival Guide is amassing an impressive library of wilderness-survival-related articles.

What's your favorite outdoor education resource? (Aside from About Hiking, of course!)

Photo Lisa Maloney: Brrrr! And beautiful.

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