Tired of being cooped up indoors all year? Just because the cold winter months are setting in, that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the great outdoors.
With COVID-19 still at large, it is more important than ever to take care of your physical and mental health. While concerts, parties, and other indoor events might be on hold for now, here are some fun outdoor activities you can safely enjoy this winter.
The pandemic may have canceled a lot of things this year, but it can’t keep skiers from enjoying the Greatest Snow on Earth. Many resorts in Utah are open, with guidelines in place for keeping everyone safe from COVID-19. If you’re wondering what new precautions are in place, here’s what you should know before you hit the slopes.
- Face coverings are required. All 15 Utah ski areas will require face coverings that align with CDC recommendations when social distancing isn’t possible. This applies to both outdoor and indoor spaces, except when eating or drinking.
- Practice social distancing. Lift queues, ticket queues, ski and snowboard lessons, employee spaces, and food outlets will all encourage appropriate spacing to allow social distancing between parties.
- Ski resorts will be cleaning and disinfecting regularly. High-touch surfaces, such as bathrooms, restaurants, dining facilities, ticket offices, and rental shops will all be cleaned and disinfected following CDC guidelines.
- Operating plans may change. To optimize safety, Utah ski areas may review and change their operating plans to comply with local regulations.
For more information, visit SkiUtah.com.
Hiking and snowshoeing
You don’t have to be a skier to enjoy the snowy mountain ranges. Utah provides plenty of opportunities for hikers to explore the winter terrain with its waterfalls, rivers, peaks, and wildlife. But the key to enjoying your hiking adventure is being prepared with the proper gear, snacks, and necessary equipment.
For a list of the best winter hikes in Utah – including safety tips – click here.
Some Utah ski resorts have designated snowshoeing trails that are family-friendly and good for beginners. Nordic Centers are available at the following resorts:
Want a low-risk outdoor activity that will keep the COVID blues at bay?
It doesn’t get any easier -- or more refreshing – than taking a brisk walk outside. You don’t need special equipment or a lot of extra time to enjoy a stroll around the block. Whether you’re walking the dog or enjoying a brisk walk with the family, this simple exercise could give you the endorphin boost you need. Just be sure to dress warm and watch out for icy roadways.
Tips for safely enjoying outdoor activities
Remember that protecting yourself from the elements is just as important as protecting yourself from COVID-19. Now that you’ve got a good list of ideas for staying active this winter, here are some safety tips to keep in mind as you venture out into the cold.
- Be avalanche aware. If your plans include venturing into the snowy mountains, make sure you’re aware of potential avalanche hazards. Avalanches kill 150 people worldwide each year, and in most cases they’re triggered by human activity. While there are tips to protect yourself in the event of an avalanche, the best way to stay safe is to avoid them altogether. To learn more, visit the Utah Avalanche Center.
- Prevent frostbite and hypothermia. Knowing the symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia is important since many people are numb (literally) to their onset. Red and painful skin, numbness, shivering, exhaustion, confusion, slurred speech, and memory loss are all warning signs. If someone’s temperature falls below 95 degrees, the CDC recommends seeking medical attention immediately.
- Dress appropriately. Since your body loses heat faster than you can produce it in the cold weather, make sure you dress appropriately. Wear a hat, boots, gloves, and layers of loose-fitting, water-resistant clothing. Pay special attention to vulnerable areas for frostbite, such as the nose, ears, toes, cheeks, chin, and fingers. If your plans include high-cardio exercises like running, follow these guidelines.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluids is just as important during the winter season as it is in the summertime. Since the cold air is dryer, it’s easier to become dehydrated. If you plan to exercise for an hour or more, Active recommends replenishing your fluids as well as your electrolytes and carbohydrates. Since Utah is at a higher elevation, this is especially important.
- Use sunblock. Yes, even in the wintertime, you need to protect your skin. In Utah, the UV exposure risk increases due to higher elevation and poor air quality in the winter. To stay safe, avoid sun exposure during the peak hours (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), use broad spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen daily (even on cloudy and snowy days), and make sure your skin and eyes are covered up.
- Monitor weather conditions. Always check the weather forecast before heading out for your winter run, hike, or snowshoeing excursion. Inclement weather may force you to alter your plans, but it’ll be better than getting stranded on a mountaintop in the middle of a snowstorm.
- Tell someone where you’re going. Outdoor winter adventures are fun, but the risks may be higher, depending on the activity you choose. A good rule-of-thumb for safety is to always tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to return -- especially if you’re heading into a remote area, such as the mountains.
Looking for a different way to exercise?
If you’re not a fan of the cold, there are plenty of exercises you can do safely at home -- even in the era of COVID-19.
Intermountain Healthcare offers a variety of on-demand exercise resources that you can enjoy anytime, at your own pace, and in the comfort of your own home. From yoga classes to cardio workouts and strength training, you’ll find something to fit your preferences. (There’s even a 7-minute workout option, if your time is limited.)
Whether you choose the outdoors or a virtual workout program, remember that doing any form of exercise is better than doing nothing. Every active minute counts.
Here’s to a happy and healthy start for the new year!