Embracing Winter

Breaking trail.

Breaking trail.

I live in Minnesota. Winters here are usually cold, and snowy, and long. This particular winter has been one of the coldest on record. The National Weather Service reports that we’ve had 50 days this winter when the thermometer reading was below 0F. It’s been cold. And we’ve had a good amount of snow, as well. The snow here doesn’t melt, it just piles on top of whatever’s left over from that storm a few weeks ago, or a few months ago. So, at this point in the year there are multiple feet of snow on the ground. I haven’t seen the pavement on the road in front of my house since November (and I live in the cities).

That’s pretty much what to expect from a winter here. Yes, it’s been colder than average this year,  but it’s generally pretty cold anyway, and it’s generally snowy.

A lot of people around me hate this winter. Really, really hate it. They feel trapped. Spirits are low, it feels like spring will never come. Every morning at work I am struck by how miserable the people around me are about the weather.

I’ve had a hard time relating to their misery, though. In fact, I’ve been loving this winter. The contrast between my attitude and others around me is so stark that I had to wonder… what’s the difference?

Backyard Snow Cave

Seth’s backyard snow cave.

When I look around me, I realize that not everybody is miserable. I find that my adventuring friends are feeling pretty good about this winter. Snow and cold that sticks around provides all sorts of fun activities that don’t exist at other times of the year. We’ve been cross-country skiing, ice climbing, building snow forts, shooting rockets off of frozen lakes, testing out our layering systems, and generally taking the cold temps as a challenge. I have a friend who went out for a short ski when it was-25F (that’s air temp, before windchill) just to see what it would be like. Another friend, Dave, waited until the coldest night of the winter, and then went and slept in his backyard.

It seems to me that the difference between feeling trapped and miserable about winter and feeling stoked is a willingness to play outside anyway and just a little sense of adventure. Cold and snow doesn’t mean being trapped indoors. It means putting on warmer clothes and taking a pair of skis out with you, or a sled. Or some good snow boots. It means walking out on frozen lakes. It means snow forts and throwing snowballs with the neighbor kids. This winter, it meant that Lake Superior was frozen solidly enough to see gorgeous ice formations in sea caves. And for me, it’s meant learning to climb ice. Another great way to enjoy the outdoors in the winter.

That's me!

That’s me! (photo credit: Fred Child)

Living in a place like Minnesota requires one to embrace the seasons. All of them. Winter is long. Adventures big and small are out there waiting, the cold and snow just present different options. One can either hunker down and wait it out, or get out there and play. My very small, unofficial, and unscientific study tells me that the people who choose the latter are happier.

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Paul showing his winter stoke.

(As I post this, we are getting our first taste of melting. The sun is shining and temps are crawling above freezing. Sad to see our winter adventures go, but looking forward to the adventures that warm weather will bring)

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