Up here at latitude 53 winters are cold and dark. Some might say brutal. I say beautiful.
I'm not afraid to say it. I love winter. I can't get enough of the smooth white piles, the empty white fields, the crisp blue skies, and soft pink sunrises. I find that every winter I find more and more ways to get outside and enjoy it. Here are a few things that made me love this winter in particular:
Earlier this month, Matt and I were sure to check out a festival we loved last year: The Flying Canoe adventure. Can't get much more Canadian than this. The festival is based on Metis and Aboriginal legends and takes place in and around a ravine after dark. The steep, icey paths are lit by intricately carved lanterns, and you're likely to run into some lost voyageurs paddling their canoes, or a pack of wolves. With storytelling, fires to warm by, bannock to cook, musical performances, dancing, and awe-inspiring lighting installations, it's really not surprising that the festival draws such a large crowd, even in the depth of a -25 (C) February night. The sense of magic in the air was palpable as we crossed the frozen creek towards a giant teepee, lit up against the city skyline, or followed a trail through the woods to look at a series of art installations: from a collection of glowing, hanging ice balls to twisting woven wire that evoked the northern lights.
More recently I tried winter camping for the first time: something I honestly thought I would never do. I loved clearing a space in the waist deep snow for our fire - it felt like being back in elementary school and building snow forts, only this was real life and what we were building would keep us warm and happy. The quiet in the woods at this time of year is unreal. Even compared to summer camping when there are usually birds, water running, wind in the leaves. Here there was nothing. We built a lean-to, gathered spruce bows to sleep on, gazed up at the full moon, and sang around the fire after the sun went down. While I won't pretend that I was completely comfortable the whole time, I did feel strong and capable, and had a lot of fun, and I loved every minute of our walk back to the truck, with sunlight gleaming off the snowy trees.
I managed to get out snowboarding twice this year, which is a big accomplishment for me. The first time we went to a local hill where the flat prairie drops down as it approaches the river. Every time we rode the chairlift I soaked in the sun warming my face and lighting up the never-ending fields around us. The second time we bused out to the Rockies for a day at Lake Louise. We got a few brief glimpses of the mountains before the snow started to fall and completely obscured any view. While visibility was not so great, the fresh snow felt amazing under my new snowboard. Even falling was more fun as the soft powder just went flying on impact.
I also tried cross-country skiing for the first time. I took a lesson with my family and we really felt like troopers since it was -35! Once I got moving I barely felt the cold. It was just me and snow and the strange swoosh sound the skis make. I loved it.
This winter I learned that the weather doesn't have to impact what activities I do or don't do. If it's 20 below I just put on warmer socks and more layers. If it's windy I make sure my face is covered. Sitting at home feeling sad about the weather does not make for a fun time. Instead I focused on the beauty to be seen, the new skills to be learned, and the adventures to be had. And the rewards? Satisfaction, inspiration, joy, exercise, greater confidence, and so so so much fun.
If you live in a northern latitude what do you do to make the most of the winter months? Leave a comment below.