By Ashley Bredemus
Ashley Bredemus is a writer, photographer, and winter enthusiast living at the end of the Gunflint Trail in Northern Minnesota. Her blog, The Cabin Season, is part cabin life memoir, part guide to up-leveling life in every season. She is also the co-owner of Birchwood Wilderness Camp, a small (by design) summer camp in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area which aims to inspire confidence, self discovery, and shared purpose in boys (ages 7-17) through safe and exciting wilderness experiences.
Hardy Minnesotans, we’re proud of that title. Here in my remote 200 sq ft cabin, sans running water, I join my fellow Northerners in that pride. We’ve earned it by enduring some of the most frigid winters America has to offer. But I’d like to remind everyone that our secret lies not in how we endure but rather how we enjoy the most misunderstood season of all – winter.
Our secret ingredient: balance.
If summer is a firecracker on the fourth then winter is the slow burn of maple in the woodstove. With that sentiment in mind, let’s take a look at five ways you can prepare for your most enjoyable winter yet.
Trade your gym membership for a parka
“Really? You can’t be serious?”
Seasonally speaking, winter is our opportunity to rest and recharge so we have the necessary reserves to be that firecracker on the fourth of July.
Try decreasing the intensity of your exercise for the winter months, or put that membership on pause and pick up a parka instead. Trade the elliptical for your neighborhood streets. Slow that sprint to a long leisurely walk.
Carve out space for intentional slowness
As you ease into a slower pace of exercise, look for other areas of your life where you can infuse this intentional slowdown.
If ever there was a “self-care” season, it would be winter. So look for ways to enjoy your morning coffee longer, savor every bite, and sneak in time to watch a good show or read one of those books you bought during quarantine.
Focus on hot food, good company, and slow times.
Redefine what it means to be “outdoorsy” during the winter months
You might be a long haul paddler, a through hiker, or a mountain biker during the summer but winter brings a new challenge for my outdoorsy friends.
The challenge is to meet the outdoors in a way that’s accessible to you amidst the snow and cold temperatures.
There’s no need to double down on extreme adventures unless that’s truly what you crave – being outdoorsy in the winter can look like a walk with a friend or trying ice skating for the first time.
As I always say, you’re an outdoors person so long as you’re connecting with nature in a way that’s authentic and respectful. Only you can judge what that looks like for you so focus less on extremes and more on connection.
Build your winter wardrobe now so your body stays warm both indoors and outdoors
Since we’re trying to conserve energy during the cold winter months, it’s important to not make our bodies work harder than they need to in order to stay warm.
Hence the emphasis on building out your winter wardrobe now, before we see below zero temps.
A few of my staple items:
- Thick socks
- Long underwear
- Wool sweaters
- A beanie or two
- Mittens or gloves
- Scarf or buff
- Warm and rugged boots
Indulge in sleep
Sleep is a tough subject for most of us, but the winter season affords us an indulgent outlook on an otherwise deprived part of our lives.
Now shorter days can be a thing to celebrate. The fall equinox was our cue to rally all of our favorite evening rituals and get ready for our version of hibernation.
Good sleep, warm food, cozy layers, and a slow approach to life and the outdoors
That is my recipe for enjoying the snowy season where I live at the end of the Gunflint Trail in Northern Minnesota. While I do many things to prepare for winter – like stock six cords of firewood to feed the woodstove (my sole heat source) and preserve the harvest from my garden – the five tips above are the real tenants I live by.
These tips may seem counterintuitive but when we look to nature for guidance they feel like a familiar fit. So take from this list what works for you and remember, the key to winter enjoyment is balance.