How To Not Die In The Mountains

One of my goals this year is to do more adventure sports. Adventure sports are activities I used to refer to as “outdoors-y”, but “adventure sports” sounds so much cooler. Everyone where I live is “outdoors-y” so I was surprised to learn that isn’t what it’s really called. That’s one of many things I learned at some recent classes I took through REI and Alpine Rescue Team, classes I highly recommend!

The Maroon Bells

First, I took a “Cross Country Skiing Basics” class at my local REI store in Boulder. It was free, so I was a little concerned it was actually a giant sales pitch in disguise, but it wasn’t at all! What was great about this class was I learned what type of skis I would need for the area around my new neighborhood. I also learned what type of clothing I’d need and how to properly layer everything. Technically, I will be “backcountry skiing” which sounds a bit scary to me. This is where I should divulge that I’m a Colorado native who’s skied twice in her life, and neither of those times were in the last twenty five years. Come to think of it, that might be how I die in the mountains.

This will absolutely be me.

Next, I took a “Women’s Snowshoeing Basics” class, again through my local REI store. They offer lots of classes on various topics, so check your local store’s calendar. Like the XC skiing class, this one also taught me what types of snowshoes go with what type of terrain, as well as what type of clothing was best depending on the weather conditions at the trail head and at the higher elevations. The weather can be very different at each location and change quickly when you’re high in the mountains. Layering is the key to regulating body temps and avoiding hypothermia, and so is blocking wind and moisture. Luckily, the instructor said that if you can walk, you can snowshoe, so guess which adventure sport I’ll be taking up first?

Coco hates the cold. Lily just loves the sled. #seniordogs

The last class I took was a “Map and Compass” class, and it was the one I was most excited for. It was hosted by Alpine Rescue and it taught how to navigate by, you guessed it, map and compass! They also taught us how to triangulate your location using nearby landmarks. My sister, Carla, who is my frequent hiking partner, came with me. Not only is this a great skill to have since we spend so much time hiking, but we are planning our June trip to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone and plan to do at least four hikes in those unfamiliar Parks. We don’t plan to stray from the trails, but safety first, yo! This skill does require some practice so she and I will be “hitting the maps” soon. What’s awesome is Alpine Rescue is an all volunteer organization and they will come save you on the mountain 24/7, 365. If there is a similar organization in your area, consider making a donation to support their efforts.

Shots I snapped driving to the map & compass class. Elk!

These classes were fun and informative, and they gave me so much more confidence to get outside, especially in the winter! I will probably need to win the lottery before I can take up any type of skiing, but snowshoeing while a bit out of my comfort zone is something I want to try.  I always wanted to learn how to navigate because you just never know what can happen. It’s one of my two big fears about the mountains, and I feel like I conquered it a little. With practice will come confidence. It feels good to push myself!

 

How do you like to push yourself? What new skill have you always wanted to learn?

Cotopaxi’s Journey to Good Health: Get Outdoors

Last week, I introduced you all to Cotopaxi and their Journey to Good Health initiative. I kicked things off talking about some of my favorite healthy snacks and how I fuel my body with the right things to keep me feeling good throughout my day and my workouts.

This week, I had planned on talking about the second item on the list – taking care of the mind, specifically through yoga and meditation. I was going to take my fiance to his first yoga class, but, as fate would have it, life happened and our schedules got really busy. SO. Instead, this week I’m going to talk about taking care of the body – through hiking! One of my favorite activities.

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I talk a lot about how growing up in Alaska afforded me many opportunities to be outdoors as a kid. For weekend and summer activities, my parents took us out on the trails and into the mountains to climb higher and see farther. I learned that my body was capable of summiting the highest peaks and reaching the lowest valleys.

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When I lived in Wisconsin, my friends and I would visit Hixon Forest and climb the bluffs and the coulees of the driftless region. We spent so many afternoons looking out across the Mississippi and taking in the beauty around us. I learned that even when under the stress of school, my body could work and sweat and I could feel more alive in the fresh air.

 

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Living now in Virginia, I get to explore the Appalachians and the Great Smokies. I go backpacking with my good friends. I spend time exploring our National Parks with my love. We go to the mountains to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and work and obligations. When we are taking in the views from the Blue Ridge Mountains, I learn that no matter where I am in the world, climbing a mountain will always feel like home. That no matter what I’m doing, as long as I can get out and move my body, I know I’m okay. 

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Hiking is one of the most fun ways to enjoy the world around you – and you can make it as easy or as challenging as you want. Go for an hour, go for two, an overnight, a week. Pack your backpack, lace up your shoes and get out there – your body will work hard and feel good and you’ll get to see some of the most beautiful parts of this place that we live.

In the next Cotopaxi installment, I’ll finally get to talking about that yoga thing. Fingers crossed that our schedules work out and the boy can join me!