5 Tips for Surviving a Backcountry-less Winter

Mother Nature has been kind to me this winter, bringing very balmy temperatures to Banff National Park and holding off on massive dumps of snow (to every skier and snowboarder’s dismay). I have never once overlooked the benefits of being pregnant through winter, but I’ll admit it would have been harder getting through winter if the mountains had seen the kind of fresh snow that beckons me to clip into my AT skis.

Almost exactly a year ago, I enjoyed the turns of my life off the summit of Mt. Trapper in Banff National Park. Photo from Meghan J. Ward collection.
Almost exactly a year ago, I enjoyed the turns of my life off the summit of Mt. Trapper in Banff National Park. Photo from Meghan J. Ward collection.

Still, the last time I ventured into the backcountry was when I took a hike into Healy Pass when I was just 16 weeks pregnant, and that was only 9-kilometres away from the road. I have deeply missed the peace and quiet of the harder-to-reach places, the joys of getting there, of spending the night out away from civilization and recharging my system. I know it’s all worth it, and I would never have wanted to endanger myself or the mini adventurer by venturing too far way, so here’s how I’ve coped with my backcountry-less winter. I hope you can use them, too, whether you’re facing injury, pregnancy or some kind of temporary setback.

5 Tips for Surviving a Backcountry-less Winter

1. Explore the Frontcountry: While I definitely prefer the backcountry wilderness experience, the frontcountry has a lot to offer. One thing I have discovered this year is how great it is to see so many people enjoying the trails and skating ponds in the immediate vicinity of town. Apart from yoga and gym training, my main activities this winter have been walking and cross-country skiing. I am so thankful for the accessibility of the frontcountry trails, especially when I can’t head out for a whole day or overnight like I’m used to doing.

2. Take Joy in Other People’s Adventures: It’s easy for me to scroll through my Facebook Newsfeed and feel a little bit jealous when I see the photos my friends are posting of their awesome days at backcountry huts or carving turns through untracked snow. Instead I challenge myself to acknowledge how awesome it must have been and to ask them about it next time I see them. I know I’ll have my chance again, and this helps me to get excited about getting back into the wild. It also helps me crack out of what can become a fairly self-centered mindset.

3. Start Planning Trips: I have gotten a lot of joy out of talking with my husband about our plans to travel this coming year, places here in the Rockies that we can take the babe, and where we’ll go on our first multi-day backpacking trip with the wee one. We will of course need to see what little personality comes with that little bundle and how he or she copes in the tent and on the trail, but I find it encouraging to humour some ideas.

2a7068d27ee011e29bac22000a9f13d0_74. Pamper Yourself: My friend recently commented on one of my Instagram photos that I had “great mountain feet.” In this particular photo I have my feet – toenails freshly painted – propped up in front of a fireplace at Storm Mountain Lodge. This is not usually the case. Back in 2011, when I came back from 9 weeks of trekking in Nepal following a full summer of hiking and climbing in the Rockies, my feet shed like snakeskin. So while I’m taking a break from the touring boots and hikers, I thought I might as well pamper myself like a real lady. It has been quite the treat! Whether it’s a massage, pedicure, or whatever will help you feel like a million bucks, it’s worth giving yourself a little bit of extra love, especially if you can’t be in the places you love.

5. Pick Up a New Hobby: You’ve likely got more time on your hands, so why not do something new with them or return to an old hobby? I think it’s really important for us to have diverse interests and activities to keep our minds sharp and avoid having all our eggs in one basket. While I wish I could tell you I finally learned to knit this winter, I spent a lot of my free time reading up on parenting, babies, pregnancy, adventuring with children and of course writing on this website. I wouldn’t say I over-educated myself on these topics, but I figured I’d dive into the experience head first. It has been fascinating to know how babies grow, what is happening in my own body, the various ethics and controversies around birth and what the heck I’m supposed to do with a newborn. If anything, I’m more in awe of the whole process.

The sun is shining outside my window as I finish writing this, reminding me that soon enough I’ll be able to return to the places I love in the backcountry, away from the crowds, the trio of us exploring in all new ways. I will never be more thankful to hit the trail, smell the fresh wildflowers and get my mountain legs back again.

Got any other tips for surviving a backcountry-less winter?

Author: Meghan J. Ward

Meghan J. Ward is an outdoor, travel and adventure writer based in Banff, Canada, and a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Meghan has written several books, as well as produced content for films, anthologies, blogs and some of North America’s top outdoor, fitness and adventure publications. She has a forthcoming travel memoir (Fall 2022), to published by Rocky Mountain Books.

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