As I write this there rain is pelting on the windows. My plans for a skiing weekend are melting into a giant pile of mushy slush. It’s midwinter, but the snow season is barely getting started. News stories say that winter Olympic venues may not have enough snow. As we chomp at the bit for ski season, here are some things you can still do.
Hit the Trails…Hard
Hiking isn’t just a summer gig. In fact, it’s better when you don’t overheat and the trails are empty. Winter temperatures can be ideal for the aerobics of hiking or trail running, just as they are for nordic skiing. There won’t be traffic jams at popular trailheads. Just be ready for shorter days, some rain, and mud on the trails.
If there’s not enough snow to ski there’s probably rain, especially in the wet Pacific Northwest. Waterfalls will be spewing water far more dramatically than summer trickles. Even in spots of the Columbia River Gorge, where some areas are closed from last fall’s wildfires, there are plenty of spots still open, especially on the Washington side.
Hang Out with Large Visitors
Every winter, gray whales migrate south from their feeding grounds in the Bering Sea to their warmer birthing grounds on the west coast of Mexico. Go to a headland along the west coast (make sure to dress warm). When the whales head south they tend to be a bit further offshore than during northbound migration, so you’ll want a spotting scope.
Birds gather in giant flocks in winter. Not all birds head for the tropics though. There are energy costs and risks when flying that far. Waterfowl congregate in the lowland marshes and river mouths of North America after migrating south. Eagles and hawks gather to feed on what are literally sitting ducks. The bare trees make it easy to spot them.
Prep the Pile
We all know the disorganized scrambling of the first ski weekend. You’re trying to remember where your wax is or realizing you pulled ski clothing into different piles for some other trip. You also don’t know who borrowed your goggles. Get your stuff together and wax your skis now so you can grab-and-go when the time comes.
Downhill skiing, snowboarding, nordic skiing, and skate-skiing can be a rude awakening (or an injury) if you haven’t used those muscles since last season. Start working out early. Even if you waited too long for a 6‑week regimen, it’s better late than never, and it will train your brain too.