This winter, give yourself the gift of good health with some good old fashioned fun. Nordic skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing are all great ways to get involved outside this winter. Sara H. of Solitude Mountain Resort talked to Good Feet about the exciting world of snow sports and the many ways they can boost both mind and body. The benefits of these winter activities are multifold. Cold air encourages us to get moving and get our heart rates up so we can stay warm. We burn more fuel, or fat, when it’s cold out. And that’s on top of the fuel we already burn doing the activity itself. Also, skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing engage muscles that aren’t often targeted by other forms of exercise, like those in the feet and wrists. Soft snow helps ease impact, making these activities a good activity for many fitness levels. And, of course, being outside offers stress release as well as an overall boost to feelings of well being.
To give yourself the best experience, start small and be reasonable. You may be used to taking five-mile hikes in the summertime, but things move differently on snow. Go in with a learning mindset, and adjust to the different pace these winter activities provide, whether that’s going faster on skis or slower snowshoes. And remember that a lesson is always helpful! Sara recommends seeking out certified instructors and using a one-on-one lesson as an investment in a lifetime of winter outdoor recreation. Lessons will help you develop good form from day one.
Good form is essential to enjoying your time on the snow, both short and long term. Because many people choose to rent the equipment required for these activities, it’s important to make sure you are sized properly. Look for footwear that connects properly to your equipment and is comfortable. Boots should fit snugly but should not cause pinching, pain, or numbness. Proper support throughout the foot bed is essential, and arch supports can help keep the body aligned and keep the body in good form. Rental shop staff can also be helpful resources and answer questions about the fit and comfort of your footwear.
Your snowboard and ski boots have the important job of protecting your feet, which are the foundation to these winter sports. By taking care of the feet properly, you’re giving yourself the ability to partake in these winter activities year after year. Sara notes “skeletal alignment is integral to safety and continual improvement of on-snow skills. With the feet at the literal base of the skeleton, foot care is crucial for enjoying your day on the snow and progressing to the next ability level.”
While you’re learning to ski, snowboard, or snowshoe, you’ll be learning about so much more than that, too. Most terrain is progressive and increases incrementally in difficulty — giving you something to aspire to along the way. Because we ski, snowboard, and snowshoe in the winter elements, these activities also teach us to be aware of our surroundings and flexible with our plans when conditions become unsafe.
When you set out, evaluate your goals for the day. Are you there to have fun? Raise your heart rate? Take in spectacular views? Spend time in nature or with friends? Each person’s measure of success may be different, but winter outdoor recreation has so much to offer — there’s truly something for everyone. Pay attention to your body and the weather conditions, and enjoy the season!