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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.