Every year, many “seasonal” mountaineers, capable of happily chaining three thousands of mountains during the summer, retire from the high mountains with the first snow. Some wait for spring to arrive while they dedicate themselves to simpler activities in less demanding environments; others, surely, spend the winter getting out of shape and the spring trying to recover it.
There is a widespread perception that the winter mountains are the domain of skiers (in the broad sense of the word: Nordic, backcountry, free ride… etc.) and the much less numerous winter mountaineers; all activities that involve a considerable outlay in equipment, a not inconsiderable skill and a risk that, for the layman, seems quite high.
However, in winter the mountains offer a much wider playground than that. The snow allows us to enjoy an enormous variety of activities without the need to develop a great dexterity, to spend a lot of money or to risk our lives.
If you are a hiking enthusiast and you don’t mind that the itinerary doesn’t necessarily go through a summit, snowshoes will allow you to continue with your hobby during the winter. Not long ago this activity, which in case you are wondering is called snowshoeing, was almost unknown in our mountains, but in recent years it has become quite fashionable and there is a proliferation of guides with itineraries at any level.
Modern snowshoes, moreover, do not require a special technique; they are no longer like the old ones, which forced you to walk rather than hike. They also incorporate accessories, such as retractable blades for tackling small slopes (the word “small” is important), and an adjustable heel pad for climbing without overloading the calves.
In short, an activity not too demanding (although that depends on each person) and very satisfying to enjoy the mountain in winter.
Mushing is ideal for lovers of the outdoors, animals and Jack London novels. Riding through the snowy forests on a dog sled as if we were Klondike gold diggers is one of the most fun and evocative activities you can do in our mountains.
Obviously, unless you are very strong, buy a dog track and start practicing very seriously, to do mushing you will have to resort to a company that offers this service. Luckily there are several in our country, although all of them are based in two mountain ranges: the Pyrenees and the Sierra Nevada. If you end up mushing in the Andalusian mountain range, by the way, you can be sure that no one in Europe will be mushing further south than you.
Another activity with dogs, although in this case it will be your dog (if you have one and it is big enough). Skijoring is a sort of winter version of canicross in which the participant wears cross-country skis and is attached to a dog, (in this case it will have to be yours). It is not that the animal pulls the skier at all times, but it is more of a help, a team sport. If we have included skijoring in this list even though we had promised that we would talk about activities that do not include skis, it is because we think it is a very fun activity for all those who usually go to the mountains with their dog. Skioring can be practiced with rented equipment in cross-country ski resorts, where there are always technically undemanding routes, ideal for beginners.
However, we cannot hide the fact that to practice this discipline it is necessary to develop certain skills on the boards and a great coordination with the animal. However, we guarantee you that the efforts to reach an agreement and the hard work you will have to do in the process will be fun (unless your dog really runs a lot).
Sleeping In An Igloo
If the Jack London experience is not enough for you, you can complete the day with something even more romantic: the construction of an igloo and sleeping in it (this is the romantic part; we guarantee that you will sweat for the construction).
The first thing to clarify is that you do NOT need a lot of blocks of ice to build an igloo, so forget about carrying a log and play the guy on a frozen lake; with a good amount of snow, a saw and a good shovel is more than enough. On the internet you can find the instructions to build a good igloo, so we are not going to dwell on them. What we are going to do is to recommend you to take enough warm clothes, a good bag and, in case things don’t go well, a good tent. On the other hand, if you do not trust your Inuit skills, you can always try to make the igloo 10 minutes walk from the car or a shelter.
If you are a fan of mountain biking, you will know that there is a modality that allows you to practice this sport on the most difficult terrain: mud, sand and snow. Fatbikes are mountain bikes that are fitted with excessively wide tires, which give them spectacular traction.
Although they are based on mountain bikes, fat bikes have certain characteristics of their own (especially the width of the fork and chainstays), i.e. it is not enough to mount fat tires on your usual bike because they simply won’t fit. So if you want to practice mountain biking in snowy environments, you will have to get a fat bike, either by buying or renting one. But we guarantee that if the bike is special, so is the experience of riding it in the snow.
In short, there is a whole world of things to do out there in the snow. In the mountains, the possibilities for enjoyment are endless. Even in winter.