Words of Wellness: Enjoy Vermont’s Winter Wonderland


Jeanie Cass

In preparation for this article, I interviewed Brad Moskowitz, Professor of Outdoor Education, avid backcountry enthusiast, and member of the Mount Mansfield Ski Patrol. Brad provided me with helpful information grouped into five general recommendations.

Remember the old Scouting adage “be prepared”?

1: Prep for your outdoor adventure with the right clothing systems. The best way to use outdoor fabrics is to layer them. Layering is an old concept and creates warmth by trapping warm air between the layers to insulate the body. Layering enables you to regulate your body temperature and deal with changes in the environment. By wearing several layers of clothing, you can take clothes off when you become too warm and put them back on if you get cold.

Start off with an underwear layer made of merino wool, silk or synthetic materials such as Polypropylene or Capalene. Unlike cotton, these materials wick moisture away from your body. Next, to provide additional warmth, add one or more insulating layers. Insulating layers trap the heat that your body creates, next to your body. Insulating materials range from synthetics such as fleece and pile, to natural fabrics like wool and down. Top it off with a windproof and waterproof shell layer. Windproof products have names like Suplex, Captiva or rip stop nylon. Products made of Gore-tex repel wind and rain and allow your perspiration to pass through the fabric to keep you dry. Hats and gloves, insulating socks, neck gaiters and headbands all protect you from the cold. Don’t forget these vital products.

2: Understand that your body is a furnace and needs to be fueled. It needs adequate hydration and calories to work efficiently. A hung-over dehydrated adventurer will run out of fuel quickly. Alcohol may feel warm going down but it will drop your core temp and make you more sensitive to hypothermia. Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor and impedes blood flow to the extremities. Avoid these products.

3: Before heading out, be sure you are well nourished and hydrated. While outside adventuring, stay fueled with healthy foods that contain sugars, carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The sugars and carbs give you instant energy while the proteins and fats help you stay warm and fueled for hours. Finally, don’t forget to drink water. It is easy to get dehydrated in the winter because the air is much drier than other times of the year, and you don’t often feel thirsty when it is cold outside. Be sure you have a good water bottle, stick it in the middle of the extra clothes in your pack to keep it from freezing, and turn it upside down. If it does begin to freeze, the surface freezes first and you want to be able to drink the water you have! Consider a small thermos of sweet tea – warm liquids feel great going down, help to hydrate you and “anything is possible with a hot brew!”

4. Don’t sweat it. Avoid getting wet from the inside. Get to know your clothing in regards to vents and closures. They need to seal tightly and open freely. Most vents are located under your arms. Take off layers as you heat up. Remember that products such as Thintech, Ultrex, and Super Microft are some of the names given to fabrics which allow your perspiration to pass through the fabric so you stay dry and warmer. Avoid clothing such as jeans or corduroys which get wet. Down is an excellent lightweight insulator but is essentially useless when wet. Have extra gloves handy as these items tend to get wet both from sweat and exposure to cold conditions. Remember that the air temperature, humidity and the wind all play a role in our body temperature and take these into consideration.

5. Bring a pack. Have the essentials in it. Extra clothing, food and water are obvious choices. Have the ability to make a fire in case you need it. Brad recommended soaking cotton balls in alcohol and storing them in a Ziploc bag. These make excellent fire starter. Waterproof matches and a lighter that can stay dry are also helpful. Learn how to use a compass and bring it with you.

Other items necessary: A headlamp, a knife, water purification tablets and a detailed map of where you are traveling. A first aid pack and sunscreen complete the list. You may want to throw in some hand warmers as well.

Most of all HAVE FUN and take advantage of what JSC and Vermont have to offer.

The Outdoor Education Program offers a multitude of courses to help you enjoy the winter season, and prepare you for adventures at all times of the year.

The Wilderness First Responder class is offered in the winter/spring semester, and specifically prepares you to deal with any medical issue that you might encounter in the backcountry.

In addition, many courses such as Backpacking, Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, Kayaking and Rock Climbing prepare you to enjoy the activities, while teaching you how to stay warm, dry and happy most all of the time.

For more information about the Outdoor Education major, or class offerings in the program, contact Brad at [email protected] or stop by his office in Bentley 328.