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SNOWBIRD — Carla Merrill and her girlfriends know the secret to battling the winter blues. They're strapping on their snowshoes at Snowbird ski resort this season.
“You get above the inversion. You actually get some sunshine,” Merrill said. “It’s like a minivacation anytime you can get out into nature.”
One of Merrill’s girlfriends regularly joins her in the mountains, after dropping her kids off at school in her winter clothes. “When you can embrace winter in Utah, it’s fantastic,” Cheryl Jackson said.
Merrill said the cold weather really isn’t so bad. “At first it starts out being cold, but once you start moving, your body really warms up,” she said.
She said dressing in layers is key to having an enjoying experience. “As you get warmer … you can shed those layers and still feel comfortable,” Merrill said.
Best of all, Merill said it is a great way to exercise. “Most people gain weight over the wintertime, but if you can still get out, ski, snowshoe … you know you’re still burning those calories,” she said.
Jackson said she always looks forward to getting outside with her girlfriends in the snow. “You get those endorphins from exercising, and it just makes the winter much more enjoyable,” she said.
Merrill admits snowshoeing does require some preparation though.
“You do have to be a little bit more conditioned for the snow because it’s harder,” she said. Merrill stays active throughout the year so she is in good shape for the snowshoeing season.
Intermountain Healthcare’s movement specialist Liz Young encourages people to warm up first with yoga or stretching.
“That’s really important to reduce injury,” she explained.
Young said snowshoeing is great cardio for heart health. “In an hour’s time you can burn anywhere from 350 to 1,000 calories just depending on what your pace is and what your terrain is,” she said.
Depending on your exercise goals, Young said you can vary your intensity level while snowshoeing.
But regardless of your pace, she said movement is the answer to aging gracefully, and it shows for this group of moms who are in great shape. Plus, they say they enjoy the company.
“It’s fun that you can get the daily scoop on what their kids are doing (and) what they’re doing and really meet new friends,” Jackson said.
Young said if you want to stay fit, find a workout buddy. “It makes you more accountable and you are more likely to show up,” she said.
Merrill also said snowshoeing gear is cheaper than ski gear, and she loves that you don’t have to pay for a lift ticket every time you go out snowshoeing.
She encourages newbies to just start: “If you can walk, you can snowshoe!”
Merrill said the feeling of being in the snow is worth getting outside.
“Two to 3 feet of fresh powder—there’s nothing like it in the world. It’s like floating on clouds,” she said.
Carla and her friends also enjoy cross-country skiing and riding fat bikes through the snow during the winter.
Snowbird offers guided snowshoeing tours through its backcountry programs.