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Sunday, December 13, 2020

Enjoy the (Cold) Outdoors!

When the holidays are over and winter deepens, how can we stay safe and still find fun things to do? We’ve got ideas for you!

Cabin fever. We’ve all got it. But we still want to stay safe and protect vulnerable loved ones. What can you do outside besides bury your sorrows in a party-size bag of M&M’s? As it turns out, quite a bit!

Saving Money on Winter Clothes

You can drop $300 on a full-price winter jacket at hip Patagonia, or you can comb eBay (or Craigslist, Poshmark, or Facebook Marketplace) for a preowned down coat that will set you back about $25. Snow bibs or pants will garner similar savings. Or hunt down outerwear at your local Goodwill or Salvation Army thrift store. As with any good treasure hunt, you can’t just go once and think you’ll hit the jackpot; the more visits, the better your chances of finding something that fits the bill. For greater savings, check for senior discounts and half-price deals. 

First, you’ve got to dress the part. Item No. 1: a down- or poly-filled coat with hood. For down, an 850 fill rating is amazing, but old timers in cold country know that layering is key. Avoid cotton, which will stay wet if you sweat and chill you to the bone. Instead, opt for merino wool or polyester for your first layer. Embrace long underwear for your first bottom layer. After that, you can add fleece or a wool sweater, or more layers of polyester (which will stink more than wool if you sweat, but wicks away moisture). Wear socks: wool or polyester. Two layers are fine, or get a pair of knee-high ski socks. Ski pants work well for your top layer; they’re waterproof and insulated. Don’t forget gloves and a wool or polyester hat that covers your ears! Ready, set, go:

  • Check your local restaurant scene online to find out who’s still serving outdoors in the chill. If the place has heat lamps, it’s worth a try! Bring along a fat down blanket for your legs, and tuck some hand or boot warmers in your footwear. It’s guaranteed the beverages will be frosty and delicious!
  • A walk in the woods, anyone? Lots of sports shops (such as REI) rent snowshoes. If you know how to walk, you know how to snowshoe! Pick a groomed trail for starters, where the snow will be packed down. For extra fun, wear a headlamp (about $25 at a recreation store) and hit the trail in the dark, or when the moon is full. Pack hot chocolate in a thermos and slip it into your backpack for a treat at the end of the trail or when you get back to your car. 
  • Go Nordic for a day. Cross-country skiing (also called Nordic skiing) is great exercise. Look for a trail nearby with plenty of snow, or find a Nordic ski area near you. It will have groomed trails that are rated for ease or difficulty, with tracks from skiers before you that make it a snap to follow along. The sliding motion is simple for beginners to pick up in a few minutes. Hills are just a bit trickier, but you can opt to stay on the flat. 
  • Sledding! If you thought you were too old, think again. You do not have to careen down Widowmaker Hill. All you need is enough slant to get you going in a gentle slide, perhaps with a grandchild on your lap. That hot cocoa will be waiting for you back in the car.
  • Ice skating is not just for those under 50. Many communities have a local outdoor rink or frozen pond or lake. (Make SURE you know the ice across the entire surface will support your weight; don’t take chances!) There is nothing wrong with holding on to the side all the way around, or using one of those boxes you push along to stand up. Be the cool Granny (or Grandpa!) who is willing to look silly while learning something new.
  • Stroll through the cemetery. Most towns maintain cemetery roads through the dead (pun intended) of winter. Enjoy a new view while you wind your way through the graves. Many of these now offer an app that provides a map, along with stories of the people buried there, for a personal walk through history.
  • Go on a walking tour. You may have to self-guide, but many historical societies are happy to provide a map and information about local sites (or check for an online app). It can be fun just to critique the architecture in a new part of town.
  • Check out a history park. Many cities have living history farms/homes to show the public what life looked like many years ago. Oftentimes you can stroll around, peeking in a barn or walking through a vintage home. It’s easy to see if anyone else is inside, and to turn your attention to something else outside while waiting your turn. 
  • Botanical gardens can be glorious in the winter with a dusting of fresh snow! It’s a completely different experience than in the lushness of a verdant spring or summer visit. You may find yourself preferring the quiet, when all you can hear is the crunch of snow as you make your way along paths nearly empty of other people.
  • Zoos and wildlife sanctuaries are still open, and offer an experience that is a great break from the day-to-day. Wolves, polar bears and sea lions are a few of the animals that are great fans of the cold and fun to watch in the depths of winter. Go when it opens or late in the day to catch animals at their most active. (Hot tip: Keenesburg, Colorado is home to the 789-acre Wild Animal Sanctuary with more than 600 rescued lions, tigers, bears and wolves in large, natural habitats that you view from a 1.5 mile elevated walkway - superb!).
Great stuff for all those days you are dying to get out of the house, right? But what about the friends you’d like to have over? You might be surprised to find you can entertain them outside, courtesy of the modern patio heat lamp. There are a bevy of options: gas, electric, butane and infrared. Check out this outdoor patio heater review to start your research. 

Finally, you can embrace the cold by setting up a copycat Las Vegas Ice Bar experience for your friends. Chill some glasses in the freezer and remind them that the real thing charges $35 for the experience! 

Click below for the other articles in the December 2020 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors