As the temperature dips (or plunges!), it is a great idea to make sure that you’re ready for a New Mexico winter–which can get absolutely freezing! But just because it’s getting downright frigid out doesn’t mean you have to pass on outdoor fun and fitness. Check out the tips below on weathering the storm as well as the most important ways to keep yourself toasty.
Check the forecast
Ok this one seems really obvious. But it’s always a good idea. It may be not too bad when you set out, but New Mexico winters can be unpredictable. If winds are supposed to whip up later in the day you need to be prepared. It is the wind chill that has the potential to not only make your outdoor excursion uncomfortable but also can be a health hazard. Exposed skin is vulnerable to frostbite and getting wet in combination with wind chill can drop your core body temperature.
Know the signs – frostbite and hypothermia
Frostbite is most common on exposed skin such as your ears, nose, hands, as well as your feet. If you feel numbness and/or stinging in those locations, get out of the cold. Do not plunge the affected area in hot water or any extreme heat source. Instead, slowly warm the affected area—and seek medical advice if the numb sensation persists. Hypothermia is a dangerously low body temperature—and is especially risky for young children and older adults. Symptoms include: slurred speech, fatigue, and loss of coordination. Again seek medical attention if symptoms persist.
Dress in layers
The best way to combat the cold is to dress in layers that you can remove if you get sweaty and put on if you get chilled. The bottom layer should be some sort of synthetic material that draws sweat away from your body. (Cotton is a no no, as it stays wet next to your skin.) Fleece or wool are good options for the second layer insulation. And a breathable but waterproof top layer is ideal. As cold weather approaches, pull out the wearm clothes and make sure each family memeber has at least one pair of snow pants, a good fitting ski jacket, a few pairs of winter weight socks (with no holes!), good layering tops and bottoms, gloves, hats, and leg gaiters (to prevent snow from getting in the tops of boots). Inevitably someone needs something replaced so plan ahead!
Your mom was right about a hat
Blood flows to your core when you are cold—leaving your head, hands, and feet vulnerable. So keep toasty with mittens, a good hat, and wool socks. When it is extreme outside, consider using a balaklava (ski mask hat combo) for extra warmth.
You can make your outdoor time so much more enjoyable with just a few pieces of essential gear. This includes waterproof boots, a winter coat with coverage—which means a parka that comes down almost to your top of your thighs, wool socks, a beanie/hat, a neck gaiter or balaklava, and air-activated hand warmers.
Did you know that being property hydrated is just as important in the winter if you are exercising? In fact, dehydration occurs from the winter dryness in combination with sweating and breathing hard. So be sure to drink up.
The winter sun (especially at altitude) still can pack a punch. Be sure to use sunscreen on exposed skin (which should be minimal!) and don’t forget a lip balm with sunscreen. And pack the sunglasses too!
There are a number of things you can do to make sure your outdoor fun remains mishap-free. For instance, remember that it gets dark earlier—so reflective clothing is a good idea. If you are bike riding, headlights and taillights are essential. Ditto ski helmets for skiing and snowboarding. And avoid an icy fall with good traction footgear. If ice is in your route, ice cleats/crampons are a great idea—you can carry them along and put them on when the trail gets treacherous.
Pets can also suffer in the cold weather so make sure you have a way to keep them warm. Consider a dog coat (especially for short-hair breeds), paw protection (dog booties), and pack an insulated pad for them to rest on. Also, keep them hydrated (eating snow is not a good source of hydration) and check them for signs of hypothermia. It is best to avoid trails with deep snow, it will exhaust them fast.
Choose your activities
I find that some trails are ideal for New Mexico winter hiking—because in summer they are just too darn hot. Consider Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument in Cochiti, Bandalier National Park, Pecos Historical National Monument – so beautiful with snow on the convento, Plaza Blanca/White City in Abiquiu, Galisteo Basin Preserve (14 miles south of Santa Fe), and White Ridge Bike Trails/White Mesa/Ojito Wilderness in Albuquerque.