This time of year, everyone is dreaming of the ground being covered with a mantle of white as the tree tops glisten while jingle bells ring in the background.
Yes, a white Christmas is great, but by early February, isolated cases of cabin fever begin to develop. Since cabin fever is highly contagious, it will quickly spread throughout the population. Below are some outdoor activities which are both the preventative and the cure for cabin fever.
Snowshoeing can be done anywhere there is snow and access to the land. Snowshoe trips can range from hour-long walks to multi-day wilderness expeditions.
Many state parks and nature centers feature candlelight hikes. These snowshoe hikes can vary from 1k to 10k. Snowshoeing is an easy sport to learn. If you can walk, you can snowshoe. The difficulty mainly comes from conditioning. Walking with even the lightest snowshoes is more work than walking, and breaking a trail in fresh snow is hard work. Snowshoe prices start at about $75 and go up to around $300.
Some snowshoers use poles, but they are not required. A good pair of breathable long johns and outerwear are also very useful for day trips and a requirement for wilderness treks. You will need snowshoes, poles (optional), longies, and breathable winter clothes.
Cross country skiing
Cross country skiing usually takes place on groomed trails. Skiers propel themselves on flat ground, up hills, and enjoy the ride while going downhill.
There are two types of cross country skiing: traditional kick-glide and skating. Traditional skiing thrusts one leg out, glides a bit, and then repeats with the other leg. Skaters use a sideways kick motion and glide much like ice skaters to propel themselves down the trail.
Skate skiing is the faster method and is used for racing. Skate skiers are limited to groomed trails, while traditional skiers can head out into the back country if it’s somewhat open. The basics of cross country skiing can be picked up quickly, but becoming skilled at it takes a lot of practice and effort.
Staying upright while going downhill and making turns can be challenging. Cross country skiing is a vigorous sport requiring year around conditioning. You will need skis, poles and boots. The three items can be bought for around $300 at the entry level, then run up to as much as you want to pay.
Because cross country skiing is so strenuous, skiers dress lightly when on the trail, but the clothes must be breathable and must not absorb moisture, so proper attire must be factored in. A good set of longies for skiing can cost up to $100, and the cost for outerwear is similar. Most trails require a ski pass, which for Wisconsin state trails is $25 for a year.
Downhill skiing and snowboarding
Downhill skiers and snowboarders ride to the top of a big hill or mountain and glide to the bottom. The skier can reach very fast speeds. The runs are designed for different degrees of difficulty, from beginner to advanced.
Most downhill skiing is done on designated ski areas, but a few adventurous people will seek out skiing in remote areas. Skiing in this area on the bunny hills is easy to learn: just bend the knee and keep your balance.
Becoming better at skiing takes lots of work. Wipe outs can be spectacular and dangerous. Downhill skis and snowboards are simple to steer, but obstacles like speed and bumps can make getting to the bottom of the hill interesting.
Ski packages can be rented at the ski resort for around $30 to $50 per day. A package of skis, boots, and poles will cost about $600 for entry level and several thousand dollars for advanced equipment.
Ice fishing consists of drilling a hole in the ice and then catching fish that swim below. The two types of fishing rigs are jig poles with a lure with live bait attached, and tip ups, where a spool of line is used to set live bait at a certain depth. When the bait is taken, a trigger tips up a flag to let the angler know there is a strike.
Ice anglers spend a lot of time on the frozen expanses of lakes and rivers. Ice fishing is an easy sport to take up. The hardest part of ice fishing is finding good places to drill holes and catch fish. A hand auger costs about $40, power augers range from $150 to $500, jig poles start at around $20, and a tip up is about the same. Most ice anglers have a fish finder — entry level units cost about $275 — and an ice shack which for portable models starts at around $300.
Outdoor photography/wildlife watching
This sport is as easy as it gets — just head outside and walk around. The slower and quieter one walks, the more critters one sees. A cell phone will take photos, but a DSLR camera with an array of lenses will take crisper images.
An aspiring photographer can learn by doing or take a class to get the most out of their camera. A digital SLR camera and some lenses will cost about $600. No special clothing or other equipment is needed for this sport.
Beat cabin fever this winter by getting out and experiencing nature in the winter.