Crisp air, white snow, inviting slopes – sounds like a winter wonderland, doesn’t it? If you are looking forward to some winter adventures in the mountains this season, before you get excited, make sure you put safety first.
It goes without saying that the pleasures of hiking in the winter months can be wonderful. Snow views can be breathtaking, the trails are less crowded giving you more chance of spotting wildlife, and bare trees give the trails you know and love a new and stunning look. With solid preparation and hiking know-how, you can keep yourself safe. Here are a few tips to consider:
Check the weather
Winter weather can change unpredictably but that is no excuse for not doing your best to get informed. The US National Weather Service has specific mountain forecasts by area, but it also advisable to look at the online forecasts for your specific destinations. To be sure you know what is going on, call ahead to ranger stations as they will have the most up to date local knowledge.
Being prepared is the key to staying safe. Always bring more food and water than you think you will need. Staying warm is obviously paramount: be properly dressed, heat packs or a pocket blanket for hiking could be a good bet or even consider packing an emergency shelter. It could save your life.
Know when to turn back
Pride should always come second to common sense. You have nothing to prove when your life is on the line, as it could well be when hiking in fall or winter. If the weather turns unexpectedly or the trail looks more dangerous than you think, turn back.
Safety in Numbers
Following the never hike alone rule may be a overly cautious, but unless you are a very experienced mountaineer who knows the area well it is safer to take a partner with you in the winter, even if you prefer solitude in the summer months. A partner can be the difference between life and death if something does go wrong. Regardless of whether you are alone or not, tell someone where you are going and when you plan to be back so they know to alert the authorities if they don’t hear from you.
Hiking in the fall or winter carries certain risks but it can be immensely rewarding. Do your research and stay safe!