Winter is a wonderful time to experience the outdoors. Many find that winter offers solitude, scenic beauty, and a chance to hone outdoor skills. But, with winter use on the rise, users and land managers are beginning to witness more winter recreation-related impacts such as user conflicts, inappropriate human waste disposal, vegetation damage and significant impacts on wildlife. As a growing number of skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers, and telemarkers venture out in winter for day or overnight trips, the need to practice Leave No Trace winter techniques is now greater than ever.
Fortunately, for the recreationist, many of the usual concerns about the impacts of three-season backcountry use are of little concern in winter. Although growing, the visitor numbers are lower than those of other seasons, and soil and vegetation are often covered under a thick layer of snow, which greatly helps to minimize impacts.
Below are 5 tips to minimizing your impact when exploring these beautiful winter opportunities.
1.) Dress in layers. In winter, more so than any other season, dressing appropriately could mean the difference between comfort and despair. Dressing in layers allows you to take off clothing as your body heat increases. If you cross the threshold into sweating, when you stop moving or the sun goes down, that wet clothing will not be good.
2.) Stay on deep snow whenever possible. Snow deeper than 6 inches adequately protects underlying vegetation from trampling. Thus, nearly any surface covered by enough snow is considered “durable”.
3.) Use the area’s natural topography. When recreating in snow-covered areas, it’s often challenging to find exposed, soft ground to site and dig a cat-hole. For this reason, packing out solid waste is always the best recommendation. However, this isn’t always possible. In this case, it’s appropriate to dig a snow cat-hole, but be aware that come spring, when the snow melts, that waste will end up resting directly on the surface of the ground. With a topographical map, we can ensure our snow cat-holes aren’t dug in drainages, near water sources, trails, or other areas of concern.
4.) Snow makes a great natural toilet paper alternative.
5.) Winter is an especially vulnerable time for wildlife and it’s important more so now than any other time to respect an animals space, properly secure your food and trash, and observe area closures.
By following the Leave No Trace winter use principles and the simple tips outlined above, outdoor enthusiasts can help to ensure protection of resources and the quality of winter experiences.
Jason Grubb – Education Programs Coordinator