Why I love winter travel

I’m writing this as I’m flying to Bozeman, Montana. In January. This destination and time of year have caused some folks to ask me, “But WHY?!” 

The short answer is, I love winter travel. Not travel to warm places in winter, but travel to wintry places in winter. I’m unusual in this way, I guess. People have a hard time comprehending why I’d leave already-cold Chicago in the dead of winter for someplace else just as cold and snowy, instead of retreating to the tropics. In an attempt to get more people to understand and, at the same time, encourage others to appreciate winter travel, here are the top reasons I love winter travel.

Winter sports

Like most things in my life, my affinity for winter travel comes back to sports. I have lived in Chicago my entire life and it’s a pretty passionate sports town. I’m a true Chicagoan in that way, having spent my entire life living and dying with my hometown teams, namely the Blackhawks of the National Hockey League. The Blackhawks are my first true love, as is the game of hockey. Hockey is played on ice, primarily in winter (though in recent years the NHL post-season has extended well into the month of June). Beginning at an early age, my excitement mounted as winter approached because it meant another season of hockey. In my later years, I took to participating in outdoor winter sports like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. These sports require snow and snow appears in winter. End of story.

Snowy city scenes

As far as I’m concerned, there are few things more magical than a blanket of pure, sparkly snow. Even in urban areas like Chicago, it is possible to enjoy an undisturbed scene of freshly fallen snow. My favorite is a quiet, tree-lined street, the bare branches looking to be adorned with shiny, microscopic ornaments.

Reminds us of our place in the world

Building upon the magical effects of fresh snowfall, winter travel allows us to experience landscapes in a completely different manner. Imagine an already-magnificent destination like Yellowstone National Park (where I’m headed as I write this). Each of the four seasons in Yellowstone seems to be painted by a different artist. Winter’s master artist paints the Yellowstone landscapes with broad brush strokes of bright white. The finished piece is one of nature’s most unspoiled landscapes, disturbed only by the wildlife (except for the few open roads, of course, which are shared by snow coaches and snowmobiles). Such grandeur leaves us with no choice but to realize how we are just a small part of something much larger and more magnificent.

Mt. Washburn from Chittenden Bridge

Smaller crowds & lower prices

Aside from ski areas and resorts, popular summer destinations tend to see much smaller crowds during winter. If you’re anything like me and not a big fan of large crowds, this is a very good thing. According to statistics from the National Park Service, the average Yellowstone monthly visitation in July 2012-2016 was 907,207; in January of the same years, average visitation was 29,991. I don’t know about you but that second number looks way more appealing to me! (Prices can also be much lower during winter months in various destinations.)

Old Faithful in January

Old Faithful in January = NO CROWDS

Confidence booster

I won’t lie, winter travel isn’t always easy. It can be harsh and challenging, and also unpredictable when it comes to weather conditions. It can be physically and mentally grueling. Just like any challenges in life, think about how awesome it feels when it’s over and you’ve accomplished your mission. It elevates your self-esteem and leaves you with that feeling of “I can do anything”. At least that’s how I feel, and winter travel helps boost my confidence and reminds me that I am, in fact, one bad-ass woman.

Snowshoeing in Yellowstone

When I’m asked how or why I endure Chicago winters, my famous response is, “It builds character.” I truly believe that, and I think the same of winter travel. I know it isn’t for everyone (just like tropical beach vacations are NOT for me), but I encourage you to give it a try. Choose a destination you’ve been to in other seasons so you can see it in a different light. Or go someplace entirely new and fully immerse yourself in the winter lifestyle. You might discover a new favorite destination but, more importantly, you probably will discover something surprising and refreshing about your character.

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16 Responses to Why I love winter travel

  1. Karrie January 11, 2018 at 6:46 pm #

    This article makes me want to travel and see Yellowstone in the winter! I need to build some character!!

  2. Angela @ Tread Lightly Retire Early January 11, 2018 at 7:58 pm #

    We got married in November, so our big travel time tends to be off season to celebrate our anniversary. We absolutely love the small crowds and lower prices. I would never have thought to visit Yellowstone in the winter but now you’ve piqued my interest!

  3. molly January 13, 2018 at 3:20 pm #

    I generally love to travel off peak season..
    tend to visit hot places in summer and cold in winter avoiding the crowds

    It’s great to get amazing photos with no one one then too

  4. Catherine January 13, 2018 at 10:44 pm #

    After yet again a huge snow storm in Montreal, I’m fed up with winter. But I must admit you bring up good reasons and I must agree… to some extent 😉

  5. Sue Reddel January 14, 2018 at 9:01 am #

    Couldn’t agree more! Especially on a trip to Yellowstone in the winter. After visiting in both the high season during summer and in winter, I truly enjoyed the winter visit a little bit more. The quiet of the spectacular environment gives you time to reflect and really absorb all the beauty that surrounds you.

  6. Chris Boothman January 14, 2018 at 3:22 pm #

    We love traveling in the winter. I know a lot of people prefer the warmer climates but we both love the cold weather and find it’s a great time to travel and explore. Love the phrase that “it builds character” because this is so true!! Great post and keep enjoying the cold weather!!

  7. Doreen Pendgracs January 14, 2018 at 5:17 pm #

    Well, I am not a fan of winter travel that involves snow. Coming from the Canadian Prairies, I get plenty of hard-to-take winter, so my winter travel is generally to places without snow. That said, I can see where a lot of people would enjoy a family vacay to places that offer fun and fab outdoor winter adventures.

  8. Kristin Henning January 14, 2018 at 9:41 pm #

    Love this post. I invite you to Minneapolis for a great combo of winter activities indoors and out, e.g the US Pond Hockey Tournament at the end of January. My favorite suggestion: free loaner skates at any of the park’s skaing rinks. 🙂

  9. Jean January 16, 2018 at 3:27 am #

    I love travelling in winter too. It gives you such a different perspective on the area you are exploring.

  10. Carol Colborn January 16, 2018 at 9:30 am #

    I get two of your reasons: white fluffy scenery and a different look of great destinations. I have a third! I have a daughter in Calgary where I spent a -31 C Christmas~

  11. Lara Dunning January 16, 2018 at 10:24 pm #

    I have such fond memories of winter and snowy landscapes. I lived in Alaska for 10 years, so I’m a huge fan of winter and would totally travel more during winter if my other half wasn’t an “I need the sun” type of traveler. Love your comments on character building. 🙂

  12. Aaron January 21, 2018 at 10:23 am #

    Do love the snowy city and small-towns scenes. I try to get out and experience before the salt, plows and brownish mess makes an appearance. On all of my winter lighthouse travels in Michigan, I love the fact that I have the scenery mostly to myself. There are usually a few others diehards and photographers out-and-about! 🙂 The summer just brings with it too many people to these spots at times.

  13. Pola | Jetting Around January 21, 2018 at 4:39 pm #

    I’m not a big winter fan, but have to admit that I enjoyed it tremendously once, a few years ago in Canada. Snowmobiles, snow shoeing, nice hotel in the middle of nowhere… I’d do it again, as long as there’s hot chocolate in sight.

  14. Crackmacs February 20, 2018 at 6:15 pm #

    I really love the rocky mountains in the winter. So much fun driving through them.

    • Francesca February 20, 2018 at 9:50 pm #

      I’m sensing some sarcasm in this comment 😉


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