There’s a reason that tourism’s high season is June through September. It’s warm. The landscape is green. Everything is open. All your friends are doing it.
That means that three-quarters of the year, you can only dream about traveling, rather than actually doing it—or so it might seem. Now is the time to turn the tables on winter and embrace snow season. Here are seven reasons that planning a winter vacation might be the best move you can make.
1. Traveling in the off season means fewer tourists
Heading out to one of these summer hot-spots during the off-season lets you experience something that few other people have. Whether it’s seeing a dusting of snow on the rim of the Grand Canyon or riding a dog sled in the Canadian Rockies, traveling in winter can be a conversation starter for years.
2. Experience winter’s stunning beauty
There’s nothing quite like seeing fat snowflakes floating to rest on a lighted tree in one of Germany’s famous Christmas Markets or the clear blue of a January sky over red desert cliffs. Winter has an ambiance all its own. There’s a deep hush over the landscape as snow absorbs all the sound except for the crunch under your boot, or the barking of sled-dogs. When the sun is out, it hangs low, casting a golden glow over the landscape. There’s a reason the words “winter wonderland” are chronically overused. The world appears more serene in the winter.
3. Winter Sports
In order to enjoy winter to the fullest, you’re going to want to be immersed in it. Sports like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and dog sledding get you out into the wild places, often allowing you to cover some serious ground. On the less tranquil side of the winter exploration equation are sports like alpine skiing and snowboarding, ice climbing, and snowkiting. These adventures put the wind in your face and adrenaline in your veins. Whether it’s high or low-key activities, winter offers a tremendous opportunity to get out into the great outdoors.
4. It’s a good excuse to stay inside
During a recent winter trip to Galway, the elements forced me to hunker down in a pub where I sat near a peat fire and watched rugby with a group of locals. I left with a much better understanding of both rugby and Irish politics. I wouldn’t have gotten that experience if I had chosen to brave the weather and visit the Cliffs of Moher.
In most urban areas, winter vacations are dominated by indoor activities. Would you rather wander the warm halls of an art gallery or trudge along the icy (but scenic) waterfront in the wind? It’s an easy choice. As an added bonus, winter is the off-season for many museums, aquariums, and other attractions, so you won’t be craning your neck to see past all of the phones and tablets to get a look at the Mona Lisa. And of course, sometimes the best day of the trip is just relaxing in front of a crackling fire with a steaming cup of hot chocolate or hot-buttered rum, watching the snow fall outside.
5. Enjoy heavy foods (mostly) guilt-free
Food made with heavy cream and sausage are traditional winter staples due to their high energy content. They may feel too heavy in the heat and humidity of summer, but when the temperature drops, you may feel the instinctive pull toward easily-burned calories. Don’t fight the urge. Embrace that beef bourguignon and mulled wine. Your body is telling you that you need those extra calories (especially after a day of snowshoeing). Let go of your inhibitions and pack a few extra marshmallows into your cocoa. It might save your life…
6. Hit the Desert
Winter is a great time to take advantage of the lower temperatures in the desert. Summertime heat may make a place like Death Valley unbearable, but in winter, daytime temperatures hover around the 60s making it a pleasurable escape from the northern chill. Many destinations in the American southwest are high deserts and may surprise you with a snow shower. Imaging seeing Bryce Canyon’s vibrant red-orange hoodoos capped with glistening white snow. Scenes like this aren’t just memorable, they are experiences stick with you for life.
7. Double Your Pleasure
You’ve arrived home from an incredible winter trip where you caught air snowkiting, and skied out onto a beautiful frozen lake surrounded by towering, white peaks. Are you really going to wait a whole year before you pack up and head out on your next adventure? Of course not. As soon as spring starts thawing the ground, you’re going to have those maps out looking for your next trip. Why wait until next winter when the sun is out and the hills or the beach is calling today?
And just like that, you’re off enjoying twice as many life-changing experiences.