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Prepping for the The Long Winter Season

By Bob McNittę2010
Call it the winter season survival plan, cold weather enlightenment approach, or whatever, the raw truth is, we normally get a true winter season here, and if you don’t like it, then you’re living in the wrong part of the country. The once over-used term “global warming” has wisely been replaced by “climate change” by much of the media, following last winter’s hammering of the Mid Atlantic states … states that only occasionally get true winter weather. I’m pretty certain many people in those states would agree with the terminology change after last winter’s record-breaking weather there.
    However, we of the northern Appalachian Plateau see winter weather every year, albeit some winters are more severe than others, but  even so, cold and snow are the norm for us for at least a few months every year. There are those that dread it and those that welcome it. The difference between the two groups is the former sees it as a hindrance, while the latter views it as an opportunity to enjoy unique activities that are only available once a year. Many are avid snowmobilers, skiers and ice fishers, some also continue to hunt small game and predators through the end of their legal seasons, and still others enjoy walks to take in or photograph the wintery landscapes.
    I’d guess the most difficult thing for many people who hate to see winter arrive is the often sudden switch from lighter clothing and footwear to those intended to keep them warm. You either ‘bundle up” each time you venture out or you feel the cold even more. Some also dislike driving on what can be slippery roads to and from events and activities. I’m often amused to see people dressed like it was still autumn and shivering because of it whenever they venture outdoors. Wearing an extra layer of clothing, a hat and insulated shoes or boots may not win any fashion shows, but it’ll make being outdoors in cold weather a lot more pleasant. Generally, our local winter roadways are kept pretty navigable, unless you try to drive like it’s still summer and roadways are bare. With so many of today’s vehicles using front-wheel, all-wheel or four-wheel drives, that, coupled with good tires, makes winter road travel much easier, safer and reliable.
    When I think of the winter clothing people had to use just a few decades ago, the stuff available to us today is nothing short of amazing. Today’s winter clothing is extremely light weight, warm and not bulky (remember those old snowsuits kids had to endure?). Top the clothing off with a good hat and gloves or mittens and it’s not unpleasant to be outdoors for extended periods. If wind and low chill factors are a factor, adding a face mask or balaclava will protect your face.
    If your wintertime activity involves something strenuous such as snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, be careful not to overdress, and if you begin heating up too much, remove your hat and open the collar of your jacket a bit, which will allow some of your body heat and moisture to escape. Just remember to replace your hat and close the collar once you feel cooler. But don’t wait too long after the cool-down or you’ll begin feeling cold. Wearing underwear that wicks body perspiration away from your skin helps a lot also.
    Not many outdoor winter sports are colder than ice fishing, but experienced ice fishers have several tricks to stay comfortable. Since open frozen waters generally see rather steady winds, fishing from an ice shanty, portable popup shelter (called a “clam”) or other structures that keep the angler out of the wind adds to the comfort. The addition of a portable heater can also add immensely to staying warm and comfortable. The biggest challenge is keeping hands warm, and an insulated muff with hand-warmers inside helps a lot. Also have a soft hand towel handy to dry wet hands before putting them inside the muff. Those not using a shelter normally wear a snowmobile suit or something similar.
    Frostbite and hypothermia are consequences of not preparing properly for any winter outdoor activity, and with what’s available to us winter recreationists today; probably the biggest threat is a lack of good old common sense. And keep in mind that Spring is still at least three months away, so don’t let the cold weather rob you of those irretrievable months.


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