We know — it’s cold outside.
The wind is blowing, and normal people don’t go out in these conditions.
But maybe they should.
Embrace the cold and snow this winter and try something new, or reconnect with something you had given up.
“There’s something different about winter recreation. It’s quieter,” said Tyler Patik. “If you’re going to live here, you have to do something in the winter or you would go nuts.”
Patik knows. He manages Zeelo’s Cranks N Planks in Casper and has worked at various iterations of the outdoor store for 20 years.
He also understands if you’re not sure where to start, so he and Chris Smith, manager of Hogadon Ski Area in Casper, broke three winter sports down for you from what you need to where to go.
Cross country skiing
It really is more than walking on skis, we promise. And Wyoming has some of the best Nordic ski trails in the region. Casper Mountain alone offers seemingly endless miles of groomed trail with a lighted loop at night that takes away any excuses involving working out in the dark. When you get the hang of it, you feel like you’re flying – and burning some serious calories in the process.
What you need: Skis, boots and poles. There are two styles, start with what is called classic, because you can start moving easily.
What to wear: Grab a base layer that wicks such as wool or polypropylene. You will warm up quickly. Then cover that with a few layers that are easy to shed as you go. Wear wool or wool-synthetic blend socks, and don’t forget a hat and gloves.
Where to go: Casper Mountain Trails Center or any groomed trails near you.
How to start: Find the flattest area possible. Step in the bindings and strap on your poles and start to shuffle your skis forward, one foot in front of the next. Then begin to balance on one foot at a time, shifting your weight. Once you feel comfortable, try kicking back with each alternate leg while gliding with the other.
Lessons: Look for Mangus ski lessons through Casper Nordic Club Facebook page.
Cost: Equipment rentals run around $15. A new ski package starts at about $350.
As inspiring as the most recent Teton Gravity film was, with skiers launching off of mountain tops and snowboarders shredding down vertical lines, downhill skiing doesn’t have to be so scary it makes your heart stop. It can be just the right amount of thrill, Smith said.
“If you stick to the beginner area, the slopes are almost flat and very controlled,” Smith said. “Then you work your way up.”
And don’t say you’re too old or too busy or too chicken, Wyoming’s downhill areas can work with you.
What you need: Skis, boots, poles and helmet
What to wear: Layers with something snow or water repellent on top.
Where to go: One of Wyoming’s nine downhill ski areas
How to start: Take a lesson. Hogadon offers a learn-to-ski package for $59 that includes a 2-hour lesson, full-day lift ticket and rental. It’s cheaper than rental and lift ticket alone. Other areas offer similar deals.
Cost: Equipment rental will run about $30 depending on the area, and lift tickets vary by time and location.
Want a quick escape? Not ready to commit to learning to ski or snowboard? Try snowshoeing. “As long as you can walk you can do it,” Patik said. “It’s also something you can do together as a family.”
Lastly, snowshoeing doesn’t require perfect conditions. You can start early in the winter and continue late into the spring even if the trail has a few rocks or thins to dirt in some spots.
What you need: Snowshoes. Poles are optional but can help with balance.
What to wear: Insulated and waterproof footwear. Wool or wool and synthetic blend socks. Warm layers similar to cross country skiing.
Where to go: Eadsville Trail on Casper Mountain was created for snowshoeing. You can also try snowmobiling trails. Explore public land, just don’t go too far off the trail unless you know where you are.
How to start: Strap the shoes on and go. If you are on a trail or in the backcountry, choose snowshoes that are bigger and more aggressive. If you plan to run or walk fast on hard trail, use smaller ones.
Lessons: No need.
Cost: Rent shoes and poles for about $15 a day. Buy a complete package of snowshoes with shoes, poles and bag to carry the shoes for $189.