Breaking Barriers: The Crux of Winter Exploring

Breaking Barriers: The Crux of Winter Exploring

  • Cristina Stavro

When it comes down to it, the crux of any winter activity is the same. It's not the nose-to-snow steep climb to herringbone up on cross country skis, nor is it the narrow, harrowing line to drop into on a backcountry descent. It's not even the frozen stretch of trail that makes ice skates the more practical footwear option over running shoes.

Climate Changer Jacket in Glacier print

No, the most decisive, make-or-break, hair-raising moment on any cold-weather pursuit comes at the point when one has to make the herculean effort – physically and mentally – to break the inertia found in the deep warmth and comfort of a bed or sleeping bag.

Crossing temperature gradients from warm to cold sometimes feels like betraying a basic human instinct for self-preservation. And every time it feels like arguments for staying in are far stronger for going out.

There's the blanket pulled up to the chin sealing in a cocoon of cozy, and a furry space-heater curled up by your side (and steadily snoring, if it's anything like the one in my bed). Temps hover around freezing and a mysterious form of precipitation is falling outside – unidentifiable, but it's definitely wet and it's definitely cold, the notion of being in it presenting more as a dare than an invitation.

This moment is the crux of winter exploring. The moment of truth. If you get through it, there are fresh turns, runner's highs, and alpenglow-tinged snow on the other side, and almost always the words, "Worth it."

Here's some beta on a couple methods we've tried to get ourselves (or our pups) going in the winter.

Dog eats out of basecamp bowls on the porch of a cabin.
Bribery: Preferably in the form of food. Coffee. Breakfast burritos. Leftover lasagna. The promise of warm fuel and a warm belly is often just enough to stoke the internal fire.

Puppy wrapped in clear lake blanket carried in backpack.

Stalling Tactic: If eating a burrito isn't enough to drag you out of bed, how about being one? Wrap yourself up in all your bedding or finagle a way to walk around camp with your sleeping bag still on. It's neither elegant nor efficient, but sometimes getting up and moving around is enough to warm you up and muster the momentum to brave the cold. 

Millie in polar trex boots charges downhill in deep snow.

The Cannonball: People who prefer jumping into a cold lake rather than inch-by-inch wading into one will likely find success here. Take a deep breath, count to three, whip off those blankets and jump right outside into the cold air.

Ambassador Chris gives puppy wearing front range harness a kiss on the head.
Above photo by Nathaniel Wilder

Strategic Pajamas: Sleep in whatever clothes you intend to wear on your activity to avoid having to endure the dreaded, frigid wardrobe change. Maybe skip the ski pants and opt for long johns. Bonus: You get to sleep in a couple extra minutes.


When all else fails, remember this: The methods are helpful, but it's the motivation, the "why in the world do we do this?" that counts. Because that's the question you'll be asking yourself when decision time comes.

For those who have managed to make a steady practice of getting out and being active with their dogs in winter weather, the feel of being in the cold begins to beckon rather than deter. The frigid air awakens, enlivens, and spurs action, the body instinctively wanting to move when thrust into cold. And with an ever-eager canine alongside, they spark joy and offer solidarity in weathering the elements at hand together.

At the end of it all, these are the moments that are rarely regretted. And when those moments are engrained in us, they're all the warmth and motivation you need to do it again.

Dog in powder hound jumps for snowballs thrown by it's humans.

What are your tips and motivations for getting out with your pup in cold weather? Share with us in the comments, or let us know on social media by tagging @ruffwear. 

Leave a Comment

* Required
Personal Information

Responses

  • Margaret Goddard-Knop

    Today we went on a 3 hour e-bike picnic adventure in Chicago. Temps 28F – 55 lb pit bull mix Daisy and her human companion bundled up – ate mango mochi, peanut butter crackers and dried wolf fish skins at the beach with buddies Heath and Eric. it was simply magical.

  • Deborah B Mykolyk

    Noted winter “papoose rig” with doggie riding
    on owners back.
    I live on Mississippi Gulf Coast. Have 17 lb, doggie with history of ruptured disc who was carried up and down condo stairwell during 4 day power outage following Hurricane.
    Any device marketed yet for papoose type carrier? Incidentally, nit young.

  • Gracie

    I get wild when cooped up. So if my humans are being lazy I just cause chaos until they’re up and moving. It helps that I’m 130lbs of fun!