When I set out to write an article called Why winter is better than summer, I knew I was wading into dangerous territory. After all, how can getting up for work in the pitch dark and heading out into air that hurts your face compete with sipping fresh fruit smoothies in a balmy summer breeze? Well for one thing, there are no mosquitos and other biting bugs chomping at your flesh in winter. There’s also the general absence of profuse sweating and its companion, heat rash. Oh and let’s not forget all the tasty winter meals like soups, stews and chillies that we enjoy in the winter months.
But then again, there’s chapped, dry skin that comes with the icy winds, the need to wear thermal underwear for virtually every activity and that alabaster pallor that can only come from months of weak sunlight and days that last six hours. Summer, on the other hand, means a healthy glow that quite frankly belies all the post-work drinks you enjoy, all your favorite fruits on display at the market and the freedom from wearing any claustrophobic clothing whatsoever.
Let’s just get real here, there are pros and cons to both summer and winter and your preference is probably just that: a preference. But there is one area where a lot of us seem to agree that winter has a definite edge over summer, and that’s when it comes to fitness and getting outdoors. In fact, according to Garmin's newly published 2022 fitness insights, interest in winter sports – specifically skiing and snowboarding – grew this year more than any other activity.
Now it shouldn’t come as any great surprise that when it comes to fitness and wellness, there were some big behavioral changes this year. After all, 2022 was the first year in a couple that we weren’t living under the threat of another lockdown, so it’s entirely natural that a lot of us ditched the home workouts. While the results show that loads of people got back to the convenience of the gym, with a 17% rise in indoor running and 34% increase in lap swimming, lots more people hit the outdoors too. Rock climbing increased by 17% as people felt comfortable meeting up with friends and getting on belay again, sailing saw an increase of 39% (presumably all those boats people bought in lockdown?) and gravel cycling exploded by 40%. But none of those numbers can touch winter sports, with a whopping 143% rise in Garmin users hitting the ski resorts in 2022.
Of course, the reopening of resorts after two rocky seasons no doubt played into this spike, but the numbers also show a revival for skate skiing, with 17% more people trying this style of cross country skiing known for being exceptionally good aerobic activity. Then there was a 7% rise in people heading out into the backcountry to enjoy their skiing and snowboarding in peace and quiet. In 2022, it seems like skiing and snowboarding reigned supreme.
What’s so great about skiing and snowboarding anyway?
So is the boost in skiing and snowboarding purely down to a resurgence in opportunity, or is there more to the surge in numbers? Well, as skiers and snowboarders ourselves, we think there are a lot of great reasons to give these winter sports a go this winter. Why? Because they’re fun! Skiing and snowboarding are absolutely exhilarating. You’re moving fast, carving your way down the slopes with the wind in your face. Besides downhill mountain biking, there are few summer sports that can compete when it comes to adrenaline.
Then you’ve got the incredible views from the top of the mountain. Sure, you can get similar (albeit less white) views in the summer, but winter makes it quite a bit harder to reach mountain summits, with the snow making winter hiking considerably slower. Not when you’ve got a high-speed gondola to zip you up to the top, however. The views from most resorts alone are worth the price of the lift ticket, and even if you stay at lower elevations in the backcountry, you’ll enjoy gorgeous snowscapes and the fresh, crisp air
Next up, if you’re a fitness enthusiast, skiing and snowboarding are great for strengthening your leg muscces in a wary no other activity can, never mind the benefits for your balance and proprioception. You’ve also got the fact that the cold weather means you burn more calories when you’re exercising. As we explained in our article on the benefits of cross country skiing, any time you exercise in cold temperatures, your body has to work harder to maintain homeostasis (constant temperature), which requires more energy, so skate skiing and backcountry skiing can be an incredible substitute for those months when the snow is too deep to wear your trail running shoes.
You can also take advantage of the fact that a lot of people stay indoors in winter, which can mean you get more of the outdoors to yourself. Though resort skiing and snowboarding can definitely mean contending with big crowds, it’s easier to escape the throngs in winter if you opt for skate skiing or backcountry touring – we just recommend that you gear up with a two-way satellite communicator like the Garmin InReach if you're heading off-piste, and make sure you take a course in avalanche safety before you go.
Ultimately, whether you think winter is better than summer or not is entirely up to you, but we're sure that all winter sports are a great way to keep your adventure season going year-round and emerge in spring in better shape than ever. If you’ve historically spent the winter months waiting for the weather to be nice enough to lace up your hiking boots once again, why not keep the fresh air party going 12 months a year? You can get yourself a ski pass, or even pick up some winter hiking boots and choose a pair of snowshoes if you’d rather explore at a slower pace. Of course, winter sports can mean a bit of an investment in new gear, but check out our guide to skiing on a budget for some cost-saving tips, and get out there this winter.
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.