Outdoor explorations during winter expose an individual to many more risks than in warmer seasons. Heavy snow, coupled with rain and the slow melting of ice, are the key ingredients to a dangerous avalanche. Aside from that, hypothermia, falls, and slips are also common during winter hikes.
Thus, hikers should plan and take extra precaution before hitting the trail. If you’re planning to head out this winter, here are some tips on how you can safely explore the backcountry.
Choose your Trail Wisely
The first thing you need to consider when planning a winter hike is your destination. Easy summer hikes and trails can transform into deadly avalanche hotspots in winter. For instance, popular summer hiking spots like Granite Mountain and Snow Lake should never be considered as snowshoe destinations.
Doing your research and checking on safe winter trails can help you enjoy your trip and spare you from harm.
Check Avalanche & Weather Conditions
In 2019, the United States recorded 25 deaths due to avalanches. In the past ten years, avalanches have caused an average of 28 deaths per year and caused injuries to many more. Even seasoned outdoorsmen are not exempt from the wrath of avalanches.
Therefore, it’s important to check sites like the Northwest Avalanche Center to check on avalanche conditions and the local weather of your target area.
Monitor Road Conditions
Road closures are frequent, especially on park roads that are covered with ice or hard-packed snow. During such conditions, driving is challenging and dangerous.
When planning winter hikes, check the roads and weather conditions of your chosen park/destination. There are unlimited resources online. You can also call ahead to the ranger station for the current situation in that area. That way, you can avoid getting stranded when storms or fallen trees shut down roadways.
Before the trip, make sure that your vehicle has winter or all-season tires and that you have tire chains, especially if you’re driving over mountain passes. Moreover, prepare your ride for the cold and pack emergency supplies (such as flares) inside your trunk.
Let Someone Know Where You’re Going
Inform a family member or a friend about your trip and where you’re heading. Printing your trip plan and giving them a heads-up lets people know where to look for you if you went missing or had not returned when you should have.
Pack Your Kit Wisely
Pack the vitals for an extended excursion, as you never know what may happen while you are out. While you don’t want to overload yourself, you must, at the same time, be prepared for any eventuality that may arise. It should contain a survival kit, a fire starter, a flashlight, a pocket knife, extra food and clothing, and emergency shelter. Don’t forget a topographic map and compass!
Do you have winter hiking tips of your own? Feel free to share them in the comment section below.