Why Winter Should Be Your "On" Season

I get it. I used to refer to winter as my “off-season” or joke about hibernating all winter. Even if you live in a warmer climate that doesn’t get months of gray skies and snow, contending with fewer daylight hours can dramatically impact your motivation or ability to spend time outside.

Growing up in Ohio, winter always meant basketball season for me. So I was really active but wasn’t spending a whole lot of time outside. Since I didn’t love playing basketball (sorry, Mom), I kinda relished the idea of hibernating during the long, gray Ohio winters after my basketball “career” ended and I jaunted off to college.

Cut to living in Bend, Oregon, working in the outdoor industry, and being surrounded by seemingly an entire city’s worth of folks for whom there is literally no off-season. I’ll admit. I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid. I’ve put screws in my running shoes. I own snowshoes. I have perfected my layering system. I’m eating lunch at my desk while writing this so I can spend my “lunch hour” slogging through a run in the snow. I’ve flipped the switch to “on” during the winter and, as a convert, here’s why I’m all about it. 

Hiking in the snow with a dog

Pro-Tip from a Winter Convert: If there’s anything I’ve learned over the course of my time at Cairn and in Bend, it’s that the clothes you wear matter. Wearing the clothing that keeps you comfortable and protected from the elements is essential to fully enjoy your adventures. For winter, check out these pieces, featured in our 2020 Winter Obsidian Collection.

  • Black Diamond Alpine Pants: These year-round pants marry extreme durability with highly breathable construction. Designed with a four-way stretch fabric, they can handle any on-route move, and their lightweight construction keeps sweaty high-output missions from getting out of hand. A DWR finish adds peace of mind during questionable weather windows.
  • Backcountry Composite Grid Pullover: The hybrid construction of this mid- or outer-layer (depending on the weather) uses a mix of grid and hard fleece to create warmth where you want it and breathability where you need it. The fleece is thicker at your core and breathable in places where perspiration is likely—the back and underarms.
  • Black Diamond Frontpoint Gaiters: These well-equipped winter gaiters feature a full-height design with a two-layer waterproof breathable GORE-TEX upper and ballistic nylon lower. No snow or ice will get through that! 

You can snag these items and more by getting your own Obsidian.

 Ok, here goes, my official pitch for why we should all spend quality time outside during winter.

1) Science!

    There have been too many studies to count that indicate getting outside, getting active, and getting sunshine all add up to a mood, energy, and wellness boost. But I’ll lay it out for you here, quick and dirty:

    • Sunshine: Increases your production of the feel-good chemical, serotonin, and helps your body produce Vitamin D which promotes calcium absorption (key for bone strength), reduces inflammation, and promotes immune function.
    • Activity: Getting your body active releases endorphins, which help elevate your mood, aid in better sleep, and help reduce overall stress.
    • Cold weather: Being active in cold weather actually triggers your body to produces even more of the above-mentioned feel-good chemicals.

    Daaaaang, winter, you’re a triple threat!

    Juggling snowballs

    2) Serenity now!

      Wherever you live, your favorite trails or outdoor recreation areas (other than ski areas) are probably the least crowded during the winter. Tourists and locals alike tend to flock to outdoor hot spots when it’s, well, hot outside. Take advantage of the peace and quiet to explore areas you might not get to enjoy the solitude of during other seasons. As with any outdoor excursion, be sure to take appropriate safety precautions before you head out.  


      3) Where am I?

        I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on a trail in winter that I’ve been on hundreds of times in the summer and thought, "Wait, where am I?" The beauty of experiencing the seasons outside is that Mother Nature changes up the scenery for us. It’s awe-inspiring to take in the difference between the lush green forest trail of spring and the dramatic snow-covered wonderland of winter.

        Snow in hands

        4) FPS (Frozen Phone Syndrome)

        I know, I know, your phone battery doesn’t have to be zapped during colder temperatures, there are touchscreen-friendly gloves, and Airpods can tuck neatly under your beanie; but really, winter weather and clothing layers are the perfect excuses for leaving your phone tucked away, saving its battery life in your warm little pocket. Pair a digital-free experience with the sound-muffling qualities of snow and you’ve got the perfect opportunity to experience true quiet in the outdoors.


        5) What is this muscle and why is it so sore?

        Winter not only dramatically changes the views you can experience, but also the terrain. It’s a new experience for you and your body, which challenges your body and mind to adapt to now uneven terrain, slick conditions, and bulkier clothing and footwear. Your 2-mile hike on a snow-covered trail will have your body firing in ways you didn’t expect.

        Ok, have I convinced you yet? Go ahead, layer up, and get outside. Need ideas on activities to try? Here are a few thoughts from the Cairn Crew.

        Why do you like to spend time outside in the winter? Let us know in the comments!

        Snowshoe with a dogPictured here: the author and her dog, Innis, hitting the snowshoe trails in Bend, Oregon.