When the icy wind blows and the snow piles up, your freezing hands will make basic tasks seemingly impossible. Always be prepared by mastering some basic winter skills. Here are the 8 most important winter skills to master.
Producing a Hot Drink
On-demand hot cocoa is a savior in winter. Whether you bring it in a thermos or a rapid-boil stove like a Jetboil or Windboiler, producing something hot will make you a hero.
Driving on Snow
The single best thing you can do to stay safe in winter is to learn how to drive on snow and ice. It’s scary at first, especially if you live in a relatively snow-free place and only drive on it rarely. Find an empty parking lot where there’s nothing to hit, and practice stopping, steering out of a skid, and dealing with hills.
If you do head to the mountains and have to chain up, don’t be the guy who causes a jam by pulling chains out of a box that you’ve never used before. Know how to attach them quickly.
Recognizing Dangerous Slopes
If you venture outside controlled ski areas, know how to spot the signs of avalanche-prone slopes, and stay off them. Seek out avalanche training—it’s not something you can teach yourself.
Learn to recognize the signs of serious hypothermia: shivering and the “umbles": mumbling, stumbling, and grumbling. The cause is usually sweat that chills someone when they stop moving. Dress in layers when you’re moving so sweat doesn’t build up, then layer up when you stop. When you spot the signs, see #3 and #6.
Know how to get people out of the elements. Sometimes it’s as simple as moving behind some rocks to block the wind. Sometimes it’s dropping a portable shelter over the group, such as a Bothy Bag.
Identifying Animal Tracks
Winter is a perfect time to learn animal tracking. The snow is a perfect palette for learning who’s running around in the wild when you’re not watching: deer, weasels, fox, birds, and other critters leave stories in the snow.
Making the Perfect Snowball
This is the most fundamental skill in winter. The perfect snowball should fit perfectly in your hand and should have enough moisture to clump easily instead of disintegrating into powder when you throw it. But it should be soft enough that when it hits your buddy, it compacts easily and the impact should cause laughter, not pain.