Get Outside This Winter

Get Outside This Winter

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Garcia, Mike

Ahh, winter is here: the air is cold, the snow is falling – now is the time to hibernate, right? Wrong. Now is the time to enjoy the peace and solitude of winter in a way that awakens all your senses. The crisp, still morning, the smell of snow and pine, the silence of the lone, frozen trail – all these things come alive as you strap cross-country skis or snowshoes to your feet and experience the tranquility of winter.

Cross-country Skiing

Take cross-country skiing and get just a little daring in your plans. Venture deep into the woods on an old forest service road, and your only companions may be the tracks of an ermine or elk and a perfect, as-bright-as-it-gets blue sky. Try to find a reason to hurry back to your car – you won’t. On cross-country skis you can casually tick off several miles in a couple of hours and work up as much or as little sweat as you want. And since cold Montana winters tend to weed out the less hardy outdoor types, a little route planning is all it takes to have the entire trail to yourself. Grab a map, chat with some experienced local folks, and head out for a long loop in the Gallatin National Forest or on other public land in the area.

If you’re an exercise fanatic, you probably already know that cross-country skiing offers one of the best formats for a total-body workout. Along with aerobic benefits, you’re engaging every major muscle group in your body. Add to that picture the stunning backdrops of southwest Montana, and who wouldn’t choose cross country skiing as the preferred form of winter exercise? Immediately in the Bozeman area is Bohart Ranch, just beyond Bridger Bowl at the base of the pristine Bridger Mountain Range. At Bohart you’ll find perfectly groomed skating lanes and diagonal tracks. When the right amount of snowfall hits Bozeman, the local Nordic Ski Club grooms the Lindley Park area at the east end of town. You’ll see folks skiing there from early morning till late in the evening, cherishing the chance to ski tracks just blocks away from downtown. Toward Big Sky is Lone Mountain Ranch, where they’ve been setting tracks since the early seventies. Cross-country buffs come from all over the country to enjoy Lone Mountain’s world-class nordic ski setting, situated at the base of the Spanish Peaks.

Enough said – if you have those skis already but they’re collecting dust in the garage, you know what to do. If you’re inexperienced but interested in cross-country skiing, then get on down to your friendly outdoor shop and rent or buy a package – it’s a small investment in a healthy and fun future.

Snowshoeing

If snowshoeing sounds boring to you, try it once and you’ll soon see it’s hardly a dull routine. Not only can you get a tremendous workout, but there are virtually endless places around the Bozeman area to use snowshoes.

When people ask me where to go they all too often are looking for a trail or an organized area. The beauty of snowshoes is that six inches of snow on the ground means you can have fun anywhere. One of my fondest memories is snowshoeing on a friend’s ranch a few years back. I followed a lush, winding creek bottom up through the hills, and in just a few hours I saw pheasants, ducks, mule and whitetail deer, a fox, a coyote, and a beautiful white ermine that stared at me for a full minute before darting off into the brush.

Nowadays I hear a common excuse: I just can’t find the time to get out there. Well snowshoeing is perfect because it takes so little prep time, almost no specialized equipment, and in our neck of Montana you’re surrounded with places to do it. And anybody who can walk can snowshoe. It really takes no special skills and with a pair of cross-country ski poles for added balance beginners have an easy time as well.

So no more excuses – make this winter one to remember and try cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. You can rent them both for less than ten bucks a day and the whole family can go along (if you want them to). Stop by one of Bozeman’s many fine outdoor shops and you’ll find plenty of great advice. See ya out there!

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