The winter of my content
One of the many joys of living in Canada is that we have four seasons. In southern Alberta, where I live, it’s not uncommon to have all of them in one day. Each season has its merits, but there’s something special about winter.
Maybe it’s the angle of the light at this time of year, or the sound of the snow squeaking under foot when it’s really cold. Maybe it’s the character that the mountains take on when covered in snow that draws me in, every time, or the awe of peering down a metre-deep tree well to see how deep the snow really is (admire these from a safe distance!).
Sometimes I feel like I have to apologize for loving winter. And I suspect that some might question my sanity when I suggest we head outdoors on an adventure at -20 C. But, I’ll let you in on a little secret; trails and paths are less busy in winter, so solitude in nature is easy to find.
Considering winter in Canada can last for many months, why not make the most of it? Discover for yourself what it is that makes winter in the great outdoors so spectacular.
Not sure where to begin? Start with the right clothing. Think layers, and think anything but cotton. Good. Now that you’re geared up, below are some activities to get you started. Here’s hoping that you too will become a four-season nature lover.
You know that favourite trail you walk in the summer? Check out its winter transformation. Tree boughs droop from the weight of snow. Rocks become covered in layers of the white stuff, forming snow “pillows” that change the shape of the landscape.
When the paths get icy and snow packed, slap a pair of “spikes” onto the soles of your boots and you’ll have the traction of a mountain goat. (And they also make a really cool “tinkling” noise when you take them off — similar to the sound made when you step lightly on a thin layer of ice on a puddle.)
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If the snow’s too deep for hiking, then it’s time to don snowshoes. If you can walk, you can snowshoe; no special athletic skill required. Because snowshoes are designed to “float” on snow (the amount of float depends on the snowshoe type), you can channel your inner kid as you frolic through deep snow (you might want to consider wearing gaitors, unless you like wet socks…). It’s positively glee-inducing.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a shuffler or an efficient glider, or somewhere in between; cross-country skiing is quintessentially Canadian winter. Nordic centres offer the ease of machine-groomed trails, where all you have to worry about is staying upright while you take in the beauty of your surroundings. If you prefer the path less travelled, heading into untouched areas and creating your own ski tracks make you feel like an explorer.
Along with parks, Nordic centres and hiking areas, you can also take your new-found love of winter to the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Nature Destinations properties. Many of them positively shine in the winter and are just begging to be discovered.