Winter hasn’t even begun and I have already spent several nights camping in the snow! Now is a great time to think about trip planning in light of the snow and weather changes!
As a general rule, I expect adventures to take twice as long when the bad weather, snow, and shortened days set in. You never know when you’ll encounter trail hazards like fresh snow or ice that will require additional time and attention to navigate through safely. Give yourself plenty of room for summit snacks and a safe return!
Accordingly, I pick trails and destinations differently, either opting for shorter trails (roughly 1/2 to 2/3 the distance I would go for on a summer day) for day hikes or making sure I’m extra prepared with warm layers, light sources, and so on if I still want to get after it.
Other things to consider:
1. Check your local trail resource for condition updates and road closures. If you’re in Washington State, WTA can’t be beat for most places!
2. Be Avalanche Aware. Snow is building and that means it’s time to download the NWAC app if you haven’t already and use it religiously. I highly recommend attending one of their free seminars and seeking further education if you plan on spending any time in the Cascades this winter. This advice applies to every other area in the world with avalanche terrain: seek out quality information about safety and avalanche conditions. Whether you’re snowshoeing, skiing, sledding, boarding or otherwise, odds are good you’ll be in avalanche terrain at one point or another. Knowing how to identify it and how to choose safe terrain based on the Avalanche forecast for the day can save your life.
3. Make sure you have your 10 essentials, adjusted for the colder weather. For example: my winter layers are beefier than my summer layers and I tend to carry more food. I also carry microspikes for pretty much everything now that it’s getting colder. They can save you from broken bones and bruises when it gets icy out.
4. Double check your footwear. I’m a huge fan of trailrunners for everything I can get away with but when snow builds and it gets icy, I switch to a waterproof option with better traction. Pair with some good wool socks and my toes stay happy!
5. Double check road conditions and opt to carpool with friends who have chains, 4WD, or AWD vehicles if possible. Some locations like highway passes and national parks require specific traction devices so know before you go and plan accordingly.
6. Don’t forget to file a trip report with family or friends before you hit the trail!
7. Don’t be afraid to tote along some hot treats like a thermos of soup or cocoa!
Other tips and tricks? I would love to hear them!