Although just stepping outdoors in the winter is enough to reap the benefits of the crisp air, why not take a cold plunge, do some backcountry snowboarding or catch some snow polo to ramp up endorphins and energy levels?
After years of pandemic lounging, many people are raring to not only get outside in the winter, but to stay out there for a stretch. Resist the Swedish sense of hygge and embrace the Norwegian philosophy of “friluftsliv” — enjoying the outdoor life regardless of the season, the weather forecast, your age or physical condition.
The expression was coined by Henrik Ibsen in the 1850s, who used “friluftsliv” to describe the value of spending time in remote locales for spiritual and physical well-being. Fast forward to today, when nine out of 10 Norwegians state that they are interested in the”friluftsliv,” according to Bente Lier, the secretary general of Norsk Friluftsliv, a group of 18 Norwegian outdoor organizations.
Inhaling the big chill is a practice in many places. In snowy Finland, more children are spending time in forest schools to get a better understanding of nature and boost their physical and mental well-being.
For those who are eager to explore the frigid outdoors, travel and equipment aren’t necessarily required — a snowy walk in the woods, a winter picnic, cold water plunges, a pick-up game of beach soccer or yoga in the park are some of the possibilities.
Heartier exercisers lean toward snowshoeing, cold water surfing, outdoor swimming or skiing at ski lift-less resorts like Bluebird Backcountry in Kremmling, Colo. Relying on human power, people hike their way up to the top following pre-set skin tracks. Skiers and snowboarders can rent backcountry equipment at the base, and take lessons. Instructors and guides are on hand for backcountry and avalanche education.
More intrepid skiers head for Tuckerman’s Ravine on the southeast face of Mount Washington in New Hampshire. The challenge isn’t just the tricky descent but also the two-hour trek to get to the top. In Colorado, backcountry skiers can be found near Rabbit Ears Pass bear Steamboat Springs even beneath moonlight, or along the trails Berthoud Pass in the front range of the Rocky Mountains.
After seeing a decline in interest due to COVID-19 and recessing winters, Nordic Blowfish Alpine Adventures is seeing an uptick in people looking to take cross-country lessons and trips, according to director of operations Keith Jenns, who attributed that to lifestyle changes more than anything else.
China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism established a two-year plan to encourage more than 300 million people to participate in ice and snow sports. And all around the globe, there are beaches that seem to have been built for winter surfing including Pichilemu, Chile; Thurso, Scotland; the Aleutian Islands in Alaska; Ireland’s Right Point; Cornwall’s Polzeath Beach, and Hoddevik, Norway. Stateside, the intrepid need not be so industrious and hit the waves by taking the subway to Far Rockaway, diving in along the New England Coast or road-tripping along Highway 1 in California.
Started in 1985, Snow Polo World Cup Saint Moritz now attracts 25,000-plus spectators during the weekend-long event, which will be held Jan. 26 to 28 on the frozen lake. Attendance spiked after the pandemic, with many people eager to get outdoors and reconnect with friends.
A major economic jolt for Angeline, the event generates about 22 million CHF or nearly $24.9 million for Saint Moritz and the rest of the Engadin Valley. Reservations for area hotels are already nearly booked to capacity, especially the tonier destinations, since polo has become a bit posh again, according to the event’s director of communications and media Katja Grauwiler. The polo gala at the Badrutt Palace is already sold out, she said. However, admission to the three-day event is free. Many attendees stretch out the day by walking on a frozen lake with friends or going to the Polo Village for a hot toddy or meal.
“The best players in the world come. It is spectacular to watch. It can be very intense — rough and tough,” she said of the event. “The whole combination of the location and the thrill of the game attract all of the guests — from locals to super VIPs.”
From a fashion standpoint, there is plenty of quiet luxury from high-fashion brands and skiwear in Saint Moritz. Fur is no longer prevalent, with younger generations turning up in luxury skiwear from Fendi, Armani and trendier brands such as Mackage, which is sponsoring one of our teams, Grauwiler said. “What is still special is that in the evening especially in the five-star hotels and the good restaurants, people still dress up. You can see a lot of nice jewelry, watches, eveningwear and cocktail dresses.”
Cold is also trendy in the wellness space, according to cold weather specialist and Ice Cold Club founder Lauren Schramm, who takes daily, three-minute cold plunges.
By spending more time al fresco in the winter, you will build resilience in your mind, body and nervous systems, she said. “Through purposeful stress, you’re able to condition your nervous system to come out of that fight, flight or freeze state and into a more neutral state,” Schramm said, adding that such decompression skills can then be put to use in everyday life, instead of overreacting to everyday annoyances or random encounters.
The Brooklynite, who is also a global Nike trainer, also leads 30-person cold plunge workshops. Even after three and a half years of cold plunging, the experience is still not something that she looks forward to, but the post-plunge dopamine kick, endorphins blast and overall sense of calm make it worthwhile, she said.
Schramm became hooked after taking a Wim Hof workshop with a coach she continues to work with, who ironically comes up from Miami. To broaden her base, the trainer is scouting a Brooklyn location to be able to offer more cold plunges and saunas.
Instead of shying away from getting outside in the chillier months, people only need adequate clothing like the proper gloves and cozy socks, she said.
“You can do most of the things that you do in the summer in the winter,” she said. “It’s important that you get started early in the season, doing the things you like to do and playing the sports that you like to play, so your body can acclimate accordingly. You don’t want to start in the middle of January.”