Ohio winters can feel like a real drag. As a Midwestern transplant from the East Coast, I am used to getting dumped on by Northeaster snowstorms. Still, since adopting Ohio as my new home, I’ve adjusted to longer winters.
On any given day, Ohio weather is as unpredictable as a 3-year-old’s mood swings. So when the inevitable surprise snow hits in April, I’ve learned to just sigh and exclaim: “It’s Ohio.”
However, now I have flipped the script and made an active effort to embrace the snowy wonderland that winter brings each year. Interestingly, this is another Scandinavian concept called friluftsliv (pronounced “free-loofs-leaf”), a Norwegian word which translates to “open air life.”
Bottom line: Scandinavians spend time outdoors no matter the season or weather.
Therefore, despite the initial arctic bite from Jack Frost, friluftsliv encourages people to bundle up despite the frigid temperatures and immerse yourself in nature while remaining active.
My close friend and I have challenged ourselves with completing at least one wintry hike each week from October through April. Having a friend to enjoy the snowy splendor with helps keep me accountable and motivated. We’ve dedicated ourselves to this weekly hiking challenge wholeheartedly. As such, we need to be mindful of not crossing the line from adventurous to dangerously stupid when it’s particularly icy and snowy out.
Nevertheless, getting outdoors to enjoy nature together, while getting rosy-cheeked, has lifted our spirits immensely and removed the stigma of the never-ending Ohio winter. I will definitely miss our icy hikes once spring thaws the Metroparks.
I highly recommend the friluftsliv lifestyle, and here are a few things I have learned (the hard way) which can aid anyone looking to get some brisk and nippy fresh winter air in their lungs:
- Know your limits – hiking through fresh snow is beautiful, but it can also be unsafe if even the plow trucks haven’t been through yet. If just driving to your outdoor destination is dangerous, save your excursion for another day.
- Invest in hiking poles. It will increase your walking speed (i.e., get your heart pumping) and help you feel warmer with less effort.
- Get a pair of winter traction cleats for icy trails. I’ve seen joggers conquer the icy trails with confidence while wearing a pair of such cleats. Jogging is not for me (even in the best of weather), but it makes a world of difference when walking on sheets of ice and swaths of snow.
- Wear layers. While I am initially cold in the parking lot getting ready to head out, within 15 minutes my blood is pumping, and I feel overheated from just a moderate pace on the trail. Wearing layers means I can unzip a layer or peel off a scarf and keep moving with comfort and ease.
- Bring a snack. Winter hikes make me surprisingly hungry! We usually hike around lunchtime, so I’ll eat a small meal before heading out, but I inevitably work up a hunger and end up feeling light-headed towards the end of the trail. The best way to prevent bonking is by properly fueling before you get to the point of hunger. I like to carry a granola bar, cheese stick or energy chews with me to get through to the end without feeling light-headed and ravenous.
- Wear waterproof footwear. I’ve returned boots I thought were waterproof, but proved to be water-resistant. This is an important and meaningful difference.
Yes, it’s cold out, but don’t spend nearly seven months of the year hiding away indoors. Getting to see the nature parks transform into a Disney-like icy forest is magical and well worth the effort of putting on a pair of mittens and hat. So c’mon, get outside already!