Are you a nature lover looking to try a new winter activity this season? Skiing and snowboarding aren’t your only options – there are more outdoor winter activities to explore when the temperature drops. Your home on wheels affords you the opportunity explore new places and experiences. Just grab the keys and get out there.
1. Gazing at the Northern LightsThe Northern Lights are a unique phenomenon. While they seem – and look like – magic, they are actually created when charged particles from the sun strike atoms in Earth’s atmosphere, causing electrons in the atoms to move to a higher-energy state. When the electrons drop back to a lower energy state, they release a photon: light. This process creates the beautiful aurora or northern lights. Getting a glimpse at this amazing phenomenon is a matter of timing. People tend to go in the winter, simply because the nights are longer at that time, thought the lights are a year-round occurrence. A common misconception is that you can just go to a location and the lights will appear. Although this is mostly true for some places, the reality is that these places are extremely remote and difficult to get to. Time and patience are the best way to see the magnificent lights. It’s worth it to spend a week camping and hiking in an area where the lights are common, giving you a long enough window to get that magical view that you’ll remember all your life. To maximize your chances of getting the best light show possible:
- The moon will take away from the experience as it appears particularly bright in remote areas. Try to time your trip when the moon closest to its crescent stage.
- Clouds will get in the way of seeing brighter auroras. The clearer the skies are, the better the light show will be.
- You want to go aurora watching when the sun is at its most active. Some people look at historical data but you can only predict if lights will appear within a 6-hour window. Here is a good resource to monitor solar cycles.
- Denali National Park – Alaska
- Whitehorse – Yukon
- Yellowknife – Northwest Territories
2.Dog SleddingDog sledding is a whole lot of family fun packed into one big ride. It covers sight-seeing, animals, speed, history and of course sledding! It’s important to mention the history because what has become sport and recreation today used to be a legitimate transportation and delivery mechanism. Eskimos were the first to use sled dogs for basic transportation of people and goods. Later dog sleds were used to deliver mail. A team of 8 – 10 dogs was able to tow 700 lbs. of mail over the course of a multi-day journey. Later during the gold rush, dog sledding increased again in popularity to help tow precious metals to ports. The Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute are still considered to be the most appropriate dogs for sledding, however over the last century, speed has been favored over strength as the activity became more recreational in nature. There are even some sledding services that use hounds instead of Huskies! Here are our favorite destinations for dog sledding:
- Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge – Minnesota
- Yellowstone Dog Sled Adventures – Montana
- Mahoosuc Guide Services – Maine
- Howling Dog Tours – Alberta
3. Ice FishingIce fishing has its root in Eskimo culture. It was used as a primary means of obtaining fish and was necessary for survival. Modern Americans, Canadians, and Scandinavians, however, have turned it into the social recreational sport we know today. In North America, fans of the sport are known to participate in yearly outings. Many will tow a portable fish house and set off on an adventure to find the biggest schools of fish. Technology makes it easier to scan and locate these schools. With the help of sonar, people quickly check to see if a fishing hole is active or not. It’s as simple as relocating and repeating the process. Experienced fishermen will tell you that the best times to fish are around dusk and dawn. On the other hand, Ice fishing isn’t without dangers. There are certain precautions that you must take. First, avoid the activity during warm patches in the winter. Second, it’s safer to set camp when the ice is between 4 and 6 inches in thickness. Last but not least, remember that ice fishing is typically a multiple day activity, so watch out for frostbite, some buttered rum should help keep you warm and toasty on the cold ice. Here are some popular ice fishing spots:
- Lake of the Woods – Ontario | Manitoba | Minnesota
- Antero Reservoir – Colorado
- Cold Lake – Alberta | Saskatchewan
- Lake Winnebago – Wisconsin
- Patterson Lake – Washington
4. SnowshoeingThis is an activity that can be enjoyed anywhere, even in your local woods after a fresh snowfall. However, it is best put to use when you want to go hiking or mountaineering during the snow season. Snowshoes work by reducing resistance when walking on powdery snow. They do so by increasing the surface area of your footsteps. This concept is known as “Flotation”. The first instances of snowshoe use are believed to be around 5000 years ago in Central Asia. The rawhide lace snowshoes we’re familiar with are typical of the American natives, who introduced them to the early settlers 400 years ago. Scandinavians used yet another variant that is more closely associated to the Nordic ski, with the bottom of the shoe being flatter, longer and less wide. Historically snowshoes were important for people that needed to cross wild terrain, including traders, hunters, and trappers. Nowadays, apart from its formal use by park rangers, snowshoeing has experienced a rebirth as it is relatively safe, healthy and provides a way to experience nature in the solitude of the winter snow. Typically, there are three formats for snowshoes. The thinner ones are purposed for sports while the larger ones are best for mountaineering and exploration. Modern snowshoes are typically made from plastics, lightweight metals, and polymers for binding.
5. Nature ToursOrganizing a nature tour is a great way to bring all of the above activities under one umbrella. North America is full of National Parks and many people choose to visit them during the winter season when crowds have thinned and the quiet and beauty of the landscape is a welcome experience. Free parking is widely available in the parks and is usually easily accessible from freeways running along or through the parks. You can choose to explore the parks yourself, mapping your own trails and moving at your own pace, or you can join a guided tour and benefit from years of experience that the National Park Centennial has accumulated over the years. Here are two of our favorite National Parks to visit in the winter time. North Cascades National Park North Cascades National Park is located in northern Washington State on the Canadian border – It’s a short 3-hour drive away from Seattle. The temperatures in the park can vary greatly from trail to trail, never mind from season to season. It also has the largest concentration of glaciers in the lower 48 states, with a total of 312. The park is easy to access from Highway 20, with many day trails embarking close to the exits. You can also choose to join a guided tour here. To learn more about them, visit this page on their official website. Some of the wildlife in the park includes but is not limited to grizzly bears, grey wolves, lynx, and wolverines. Glacier National Park Dubbed “The Crown of the Continent”, it’s easy to see why the Glacier National Park is so popular. Large mountains, serene lakes, and abundant wildlife make this park the epitome of the wilds of the American north. The park was recently declared a world heritage site along with its Canadian neighbor, Waterton Lakes National Park. The Glacier National Park is home to a staggering variety of animals and the largest concentration of bears in the USA. You’ll also find beavers, bighorn sheep, elk, lynx, mountain goats, mountain lions, and wolverines. There are many trails to explore but we recommend the River Belly Trail, which is typically open year-round, as well as the St. Mary Trail, which is a little steeper and with more challenging weather conditions.
So there you have it. We hope to have given a bit of inspiration in terms of things you can do in the wild this winter. Get there and Stay there in an RV!