The best way to love winter is to live it

We live in a northern climate, it's winter for about five months where we live, so we've decided to maximize our enjoyment of winter.

We do this by engaging in winter sports, specifically skiing, and getting out in all four seasons in general. In winter we fight against the pull to stay indoors (it's cold!), the tendency to withdraw and retreat. Because if you do that too much you'll get depressed. Ask me how I know.

This past Sunday we had the pleasure of spending the better part of the day with another outdoors-loving family. We had a huge dump of snow Saturday night and early Sunday morning. After a big snow we greet the day with so much joy - a day for playing in the snow!

Our friends' children are small so instead of a big ski on a snow day we went sledding at the nearby school. They invited us for lunch and cappuccinos at their house. After hours of talking about adventures, travel, and the beauty of the Gaspé we were reluctant to leave.

During the course of our conversation I asked our friends about cabin fever, if they experience it. They don't. The best way to live winter, in their estimation, is to get out in it.

These friends love winter, they don't think it's long enough!

Do you know how wonderful it is to share a pot of lentil soup and baked tofu, after a morning of sledding, with friends who love winter? Friends who love life.

How do you love winter? Why you ski, skate and sled of course. And if you can do it from your door, all the better.

This family has three young children. They have built a life where they have time to zip up the snowsuits. Because like all things that demand our attention, learning to love winter and engage in it will take time.

Our friends have the time, make the time. They are cool people to hang out with. They love to travel and have outdoor adventures, they live life to the full with their young children. They love where they live, and so do we.

Enjoying winter is about attitude and opportunity. Having the right attitude and providing yourself with the most opportunity to enjoy it.

Every morning I stop my work, all the things that must be done, and get outside for some exercise, usually with the kids. (They have to spend time outside everyday, most often they choose to exercise with us during that time.) My minimum is one hour of fairly vigorous activity but if we have time for a 2 hour ski, oh heaven, that's lovely.

The daily exercise outdoors is a non-negotiable part of my winter wellness plan.

Other key components of my winter wellness are daily supplements (2000 IU of D3, and omega-3's) and a happy light.

Many of you have asked how that's working. Wonderfully!

I have not yet experienced the winter blues (my January overwhelm was a case of something different called "OMG we're hiking the AT in 3 months") nor do I have cabin fever, yet.

In fact, I feel really quite fabulous this winter. Perhaps I'm just too busy. Or maybe I know winter will end for me in six weeks when we start the trail. The definitive end to winter probably helps.

The more I live winter the way a child lives winter - with my whole body and all my senses - the more I enjoy it. The more I build outdoor activity into my day, the more I love life, in all seasons. It makes me want to spend more and more time outdoors.

Telemark skiing, specifically skinning up a mountain and skiing down on a regular basis has totally energized my winter. It is such good exercise and so much fun. I told Damien this year I never want to live anywhere I can't ski in winter. 

Quebeckers, or maybe it's just Gaspesians, have a winter joie de vivre I haven't experienced anywhere else. I know very few locals, in fact I can't name a one, that complain about winter.

Maybe they know life is too short to complain about where you live. Maybe I'm just hanging out with the right crowd. Maybe people here know the best way to love winter is just to live it.

This must be why Quebeckers are so well represented, and medaled at the Olympics. Go Canada!

I know it's hard to prioritize outdoor winter exercise, but the same could be said for any new discipline. And when I'm not motivated the together principle helps a lot.

I can't imagine not skiing, or going through my week without the outdoors, because winter outdoors energizes me to do winter indoors.

Resource Library

« Inspiration and Action ~ The Wrap-Up
Whisked Winter Cocoa »
  • Andréann

    Andréann on Feb. 19, 2014, 1:38 p.m.

    I'm very happy that's how you feel about Québecers, but being one, I know not everyone delights it. In fact I heard more of my share of people complaning!!! But as the years past, I found myself stepping away from those people and sticking with the ones that trully enjoys snow, and cold. They are the same people that won't complain about being too hot in the summer, too!!

    And yes, getting out, taking the time to zip 3 children coat and tucking mittens and snowboots in is totally worth it, even for 25 min of sledding in the backyard!!


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 19, 2014, 1:50 p.m.

      Andréann, I think we must just be hanging out with the right crowd then! We are outdoorsy people and we like to hang with people who share our interests. So I think, like you, we've just self selected a group of friends who enjoy life in all seasons (smile).


  • Jess

    Jess on Feb. 19, 2014, 3:04 p.m.

    I grew up in Norther Michigan in a family who loved to snowmobile. I never enjoyed it much and when I moved away, claimed that I hated winter. It's true that I prefer moderate temperatures to below freezing ones and rain to snow. I dreamed of living in the PNW, curled up with a book, a cup of tea, and looking out the window at the drizzle. Over a decade later, I was still in Michigan, and still despising winter.  It wasn't until I made a committment  to myself a few years ago to enjoy winter (if I was going to be stuck in Michigan), and discovered snowshoeing. I haven't got to do it as much as I'd like due to living in city limits and only have one family vehicle; but it's been enough to bring me hope!  You're joy for winter activities is contageous! 


  • Britton

    Britton on Feb. 19, 2014, 6:38 p.m.

    Thank you for sharing the joys of winter! We're in a pretty desperate drought situation here in northern New Mexico (70 degrees in February at 6,000 ft elevation- record setting heat and dry) and I've noticed that so many are complaining about the snow... Ha! Listen to me complain about our weather! We wish we had snow! We're taking advantage of hiking in warm weather before the forests and BLM close due to fire danger, but it's nice to live vicariously and dream of skiing and snowshoeing!


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 19, 2014, 7:22 p.m.

      As an adult I've never lived anywhere without abundance of precipitation. Drought is hard for me to wrap my brain around. Enjoy your "winter" hiking. 


  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on Feb. 19, 2014, 7:18 p.m.

    Renee, what a great post about Quebec and Gaspesians!! Yes, we do love our winters here! I second what Andréann said, there are quite a bit of people complaining though... most of those do not enjoy the winter sports. You seem to have found a great recipe for enjoying winter without feeling cabin fever, that's awesome!


  • Jill Foley

    Jill Foley on Feb. 19, 2014, 8:30 p.m.

    I agree that in order to love something you have to embrace it....I have found this to be true in so many areas of my life (seasons, climates, homeschooling, etc). Last week we had a bout of irregular winter weather here (snow and ice) and I posted a pic on instagram with the caption - you are only snowed in if you choose to stay inside. I find that when I embrace whatever situation is in front of me, I can find joy and enjoyment in it.


  • Nicole

    Nicole on Feb. 20, 2014, 1:15 a.m.

    I wish we could move there and rent one of the available homes!!!!  It would be entertaining to see how this California girl would survive a winter over there.  But I would love the opportunity to at least try!  Maybe some day... :)


  • Kika

    Kika on Feb. 20, 2014, 4:42 a.m.

    I am surprised you say you only average FIVE months of winter. We typically have at least SIX (Oct-March) but even get bouts of snow up to May - soccer season! Bleh!


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 20, 2014, 12:23 p.m.

      I hear you! We get a great winter season here but I think Alberta winters are too long. Winter doesn't really arrive here till end of November/early December and ends sometime mid-April (though the good skiing winter conditions end in March). If I were to live in AB again I would want to be in the mountains so I could ski the whole time or leave for February March.


  • JenP

    JenP on Feb. 20, 2014, 7:32 p.m.

    You always surprise me with how you are able to hit the nail on the head in ways that seem so obvious after you say it. I'm really struggling this winter, and now I think this is why. I have not ventured out much at all this winter, for no good reason except laziness. We live in St. Louis, (I have to say I'm a little embarrassed!) we usually do not get much snow, but this year we've gotten quite a bit, and I've found I don't really have the right gear to get out and enjoy it. I guess that's something I'll have to invest in. 


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 20, 2014, 10:21 p.m.

      JenP, I totally hear you. Without good winter gear I would be lost in winter and if you live in a place that you don't usually need it than it's understandable why you wouldn't be prepared. 


  • Alaina

    Alaina on Feb. 20, 2014, 7:43 p.m.

    I like winter, but I do find myself complaining at times, especially when I find that most people around me complain about winter (and we have long, cold ones).  I've been trying to have a better attitude about it, and you inspire me to stop complaining :).  This winter we have had a lot of cold.  Now, its not so bad.  I can easily go out.  When its that extreme "ice on your eyelashes"...that cold is really hard, especially with young kids.  I am seriously considering two things that might help us with winter that we don't do yet: ski goggles (umm I think that is what they are called) and foot warmers.  I see that in most of your pics, even when not skiing, your kids wear ski goggles.  Like in the tobogganing one above where they are getting the 4 sleds out.  I find the snow so bright that its hard to deal with, but sunglasses are hard to wear under winter hats (they end up hurting my ears and leaving a gap for the wind to get in) and they fog up.  Do your kids/you wear ski goggles as a solution to this problem, even when not skiing, as it looks like they do?  I was considernig them for walks around town, snowshoeing, hiking, etc when we have to wear winter hats, but I don't know if its a workable solution. I also think it might help us on the "its so cold you can't have any skin showing" days when we can't go outside for longer than a few minutes.  It might help with the eyes hurting from the cold.  Any thoughts?

    Also, have you ever tried foot warmers of any kind?  I don't really like the idea of a disposable product (from what I read, they sort of tape onto your sock, last a few hours, and then you throw them out) but we've tried all the other recommendations (including your warm feet post that was a while back) and ideas and still have issues, especially me who has a cold feet problem constantly and my littlest one who isn't moving enough yet.  Sometimes we also walk/snowshoe too slow due to the little kids to get warming up enough.  We've had some bouts of crying this winter due to cold, red, sore feet :(. Any thoughts?


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 20, 2014, 10:15 p.m.

      Hi Alaina, snow or ski goggles all the way. We bought them for skiing because the wind stings your eyes so much but didn't realize how much of a warmth factor they add also. They cover a lot of the face and I have a pair that fit over my glasses. If it snowing or blizzard conditions we wear them sledding, but on clear days for just around home stuff the kids usually go without. But they are a great outdoor wear item.

      Foot warmers. Totally hear you on the pain of cold feet. We use the disposable hand/foot warmers occasionally when skiing in the mountains. When we ski at the hill we just go in the lodge to warm up. We'd rather use those than get frostbite. The other option is alpaca liners. I use these and wrote about it here at Toe Salad. I've used them now for 2 straight winters and I love them. I wear them in my ski boots especially. I can relate to cold feet anxiety. Read the review and maybe consider giving getting a pair. 


  • Bobbiann

    Bobbiann on Feb. 21, 2014, 12:04 a.m.

    I've never thought of it that way. I've always said that I don't like winter, but have never really tried to. I get cold easily and find it hard to stay warm in winter. I do enjoy the scenery after a snowfall, before the wind blows it off the trees.

    Here in southern NS, we don't usually get a lot of snow, but this winter has been exceptional.


  • Nana

    Nana on Feb. 23, 2014, 12:40 a.m.

    I love those days of winter with fresh snow. This winter when that has happened here - it hasn't lasted very long until we get rain, wind, maybe some ice, then no snow -  and repeat. I thought of getting snow shoes - but for maybe 4 days of activity? The x-country skiis haven't worked well in the woods with low-hanging branches on many trees or fallen logs and stumps, and having to dodge open water rivulets. So as far as getting exercise and having fun in the winter, where I live, outside my door - it's a colder version of my spring-summer-fall activity, running. Sometimes wear grips with spikes on my shoes. Regardless, I always feel great getting out there in the fresh air and totally energized. 


You can subscribe to comments on this article using this form.

If you have already commented on this article, you do not need to do this, as you were automatically subscribed.