Imagine going outdoors in cold, snowy weather to play. Perhaps you think, “No way! It is cold out there!” But it doesn’t feel cold when you dress properly. Skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, ice climbing, ice skating, sledding and sleigh riding are super fun activities. Don’t miss out. As with many sports, summer and winter, there are ways to improve safety and comfort. Below are 8 tips for playing in the snow safely and enjoyably.
- Proper clothing: Be sure to dress appropriately for the weather. This is for your comfort and safety. Frost bite and hypothermia are preventable by dressing properly. It is easy by using the layer method.
Base Layer (closest to your skin): Wear a long-sleeve merino wool tee shirt, and merino wool tights. Alternatively, many like a base layer of silk long underwear shirts and bottoms. Silk is very warm and feels great on your skin.
Middle Layer: Depending on the temperature and wind speed, you may need one or more middle layers. For this layer use a wool sweater, fleece jacket and/or down vest on the top. For the bottom half of the body, wear wool knee socks or thicker wool socks and long underwear bottoms. Do not wear cotton because it gets wet and you will then get cold. Instead wear PolyPro, which is warm. After years of use, however, PolyPro can get a funky smell that seems impossible to remove. If this happens, consider yourself having had a lot of fun for many years, and go buy a new pair.
Outside Layer: Wear a waterproof coat or parka; and ski pants or waterproof rain pants. An alternative to wearing snow pants is to wear heavy gauge wool pants with gaiters.
You will be exerting energy as you do wintry outdoor activities, so plan on adding and removing layers often. As you warm up, take off a layer or two. When you stop to rest, put on one or more layers of clothing. Don’t let yourself get cold or too hot. Outdoor activities are safer and more enjoyable when you are comfortable, so don’t hesitate to stop and adjust your layers. This is a good time to admire the scenery and snap a picture or two.
Why is wool important? Wool dries with your own body heat. If you perspire or get snowed on, wool will keep you warm while it is drying. Cotton and many synthetics don’t have those properties. Therefore, don’t ever play in the snow or participate in winter sports while wearing jeans. For your outer layer, always wear a breathable, waterproof pant, snow pant or heavy wool pant, and a breathable, waterproof parka or coat.
2. Hat and gloves: It is essential to wear a wool hat and scarf. A neck warmer can be substituted for the scarf. Balaclavas are really nice alternatives to the hat and scarf, particularly when it is windy and cold. They come in various fabric weights. Don’t forget to wear wool mittens or gloves. If you expect to be in frigid temperatures, wearing 2 layers of gloves may be appropriate, one thinner layer near your skin and a thicker waterproof snow glove or mitten on the outside.
3. Sunglasses/Goggles: To prevent snow blindness, on sunny days, it is essential to wear UV-safe sunglasses or tinted snow goggles. And you will look much more stylish!
4. Pack: Whenever you go, wear a rucksack, daypack or backpack so you have a place to store extra layers of clothing, food and water.
5. Water and Snacks: Take water to drink during rest stops; along with a snack or lunch. One of my friends also takes a thermos of coffee or hot chocolate. Standing on a ridge looking at jagged mountain peaks while sipping a hot drink is bliss. You are exerting a lot of energy so don’t forget to pack a snack, like a bar of chocolate and some almonds to eat, or lunch.
6. Matches or lighter: Put a pack of matches or a lighter in one of the pockets of your pack. You are unlikely to need it, but it can be a life saver in an emergency. Actually, it is a good idea to always keep matches or a lighter in your daypack so you don’t have to remember to pack them.
7. Map: If you are going into the wilderness, always take a map of the area you are going to. For day trips, people usually go into the wilderness for about an hour. Then they turn around and following their tracks back to the starting point. But if you plan to snowshoe a loop trail or go to a hut, a map will help guide you to your destination. It is not fun and can be dangerous to get lost in the cold.
8. Sunscreen: Also, be sure to put sunscreen on any skin that is exposed to the light. Snow reflects the sunlight so you get sun’s rays from above and below. Even on cloudy days, your skin can get sunburned. Remember to put sunscreen on your face around your sunglasses or snow goggles and tips of your ears. It is also good to use a lip balm to protect your lips.
If you have additional tips, please send them to me.