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Outdoor Winter Activities to Help You Survive the Season

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Winter’s on its way. There’s no denying that darker days are ahead for a couple of months. We can either curl up on the couch and sleep the winter away or we can embrace this time and try new ways to enjoy the winter. Winter activities can fit all income levels and budgets, including completely free activities. The whole idea is to get outside, embrace the winter season, and keep active. Besides, we’re not bears, so sleeping the winter away isn’t an option anyway!



Beat winter at its own game! Some of the best winter sports and activities are right here in Vermont. Downhill skiing is a popular one, but it can be pricey. Look for mid-week deals and Vermonter specials for non-holiday weeks. There are other sports and activities that may be better suited to your lifestyle. Try something new this winter! Equipment ranges in price but there are some great deals at local ski and sports sales, on marketplace websites, and Front Porch Forum.



Gather your group for a sledding party if you have a good hill. Music and beverages make it a festive event! Perfect for celebrating the winter solstice, and great if you are looking to host a large crowd.



This is a great way to get exercise and you can bring your dog, friend, partner, or go on your own. Many towns have trails, bike paths, and neighborhood loops well suited for a snowshoe hike. Bring a bright headlamp and try some hiking or ski poles to make the adventure much more “balanced.”



Great exercise and affordable if you go on local, groomed trails in your own neighborhood. When using VAST trails, follow the rules about sharing the trails. Pay attention to snow machine traffic and wear safety colors. There are several excellent ski areas with Nordic trails, and they offer discounts on mid-week and early- or late-season days.



This winter sport is becoming a very popular activity in Vermont. You don’t need to be an expert biker to try it out as the wide tires offer stability and improved balance. For beginners, try renting a bike for a weekend from a local shop. They can fit the bike to you and share information about their favorite trails. There are some groomed trails that you can pay to ride on, but it’s worth it to get a better experience.



This sport is gaining in popularity. It’s a fantastic way to connect with nature during the winter, plus it’s great exercise. You travel uphill on special skis that have “skins” that prevent you from sliding down the hill. You then remove the skins at the top so you can ski down. Touring is something you can do both in remote mountain locations and at downhill ski areas. Many ski areas permit uphill touring on certain trails. Check their policy before heading out. Be safe and smart if you choose a remote trail that is not in a designated ski area. Share your plan with a friend in case of emergency.


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Enjoy warm-weather fishing? Ice fishing is a great way to spend a winter afternoon and experience the same rush when you snag a great catch! You’ll need special equipment such as ‘tip-ups’ and an ice auger to drill holes in the ice. Warm clothing and a nearby shanty—a little shelter or hut—are necessities. A variety of fish are in season, like lake trout, northern pike, landlocked salmon, and panfish like perch and crappie. Ice fishing season in Vermont runs from mid-January through mid-March.

Be sure to get up to speed on the catch limits and regulations and only venture out when the ice is safe. One way to try ice fishing with a little help is on the Vermont ice fishing day. This event is free, and you can fish without a license, borrow gear, they’ll provide the bait and give you pointers and tips if you want to try it on your own. There’s a lot to learn about ice fishing, especially ice safety, so be sure you do your research. Consider joining an experienced friend or family member. It’s a good idea to go with someone as your safety buddy. A fresh catch of lake trout or perch will liven up a winter weekend!



One way to connect with winter in a quiet, less extreme way is to try your hand at observing the wildlife in your area. Vermont features all kinds of interesting terrain with wildlife that is active all winter. Take a camera, a sketchbook and pencil, and an observant, curious point of view. Some animals you may see are voles, partridges, porcupines, fishers, bobcats, and deer. You’ll learn about other creatures that work even harder than you to survive winter! As the days begin to get longer in late January, you’ll see how the plants, ferns, moss, and other vegetation adapt and get ready for spring. Soon the tree branches turn red as they prepare for leafing out, and this is how you know that spring is on its way. Capture your observations in a sketchbook and note the dates when you first notice signs of spring. The animals become more active and the moss peeks out of the snow on south-facing banks. Over the years, you’ll have a seasonal record of trends and observations. Record where you saw tracks, what dates you observed signs of spring, and what the season’s markers are on your favorite trail. This activity is still good exercise, gets you out in the sun and air, and is peaceful and meditative.


These are just a few ideas. Other winter activities are out there, from snow machining to dog sled tours. Be adventurous and enjoy winter. Remember that this is when our natural environment rests, resets, and recharges for the next season. Sure, you might get a little chill, but your body, mind, and soul will thank you. And at the end of the day, treat yourself to a warm beverage, comfy couch, and a cozy fire.


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About Laurie Fielder

Laurie directs VSECU’s VGreen energy savings loan program. Previously, she worked for the weatherization program at the Central Vermont Community Action Council (now Capstone), and for a successful residential solar installer. She enjoys helping Vermonters learn about efficiency and renewable financing options that maximize the savings of these smart investments. She lives in Woodbury with her family and enjoys the outdoors, walking the dog, and tackling home improvement projects.
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