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Go outdoors in the snow with JBLM

Outdoor trips an opportunity for winter fun

Northwest Adventure Center A group of skiers pose during a December 2015 backcountry skiing trip at Hurricane Ridge hosted by the Northwest Adventure Center.

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When the snow falls, some people choose to grab a warm blanket, drink a hot beverage and pull up their favorite shows on a streaming service. Others see the opportunity for fun and adventure through various winter activities.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Northwest Adventure Center has several options for guided trips where individual outdoor enthusiasts and families can enjoy some winter fun.

One activity that is becoming more popular is backcountry skiing and ski touring, with several opportunities in January and February. Backcountry skiing is a chance to utilize paths that are rarely used compared to normal slopes at resorts.

Skiers travel both up and downhill without needing to remove the skis. In addition to skiing, these backcountry tours also include options for snowboarders.

“The advantage of backcountry skiing is that you are able to reach new snow,” said Kaweka Stoney, adventure programmer for JBLM NAC. “For our trips, (we) require skiing experience. If you are able to ski the blue square runs at (the) resort, then you should have the skills required for this trip.”

Stoney said the NAC does offer introduction to backcountry skiing classes. The guides often provide the technical gear along with the trips, as well as the necessary safety equipment such as avalanche bags and beacons.

Although these trips are designed for the experienced enthusiasts, the trips are managed well by the NAC expert guides.

“Ski touring often requires good awareness of the risks of traveling in the backcountry to include avalanche(s),” Stoney said. “Our guides have the knowledge to asses and test the snow conditions to minimize the risk of (an) avalanche.”

One of the most popular family trips that the NAC offers is snow-tubing. The next snow tubing trip is scheduled for Sunday, with another one currently planned for March 4.

The location can change depending on weather and availability. The usual tubing spot is at Hvak Snow Park at Snoqualmie Pass, but the NAC has also taken families to Mount Rainier.

“We have the slippery racer snow tubes that are the envy of the hill,” Stoney said. “With the groomed tracks and kiddie hill, there is fun for everyone.”

Stoney also said families can participate in the NAC’s snowshoeing trips along the Carbon River Saturday and at Salmon La Sac on Sunday.

These snowshoe trips that are taking place throughout January and February have a minimum age requirement of 12; equipment is provided.

Stoney said there is a lot of interest in the NAC’s moonlight snowshoe trips for the 1-mile loop hike at Gold Creek Pond at Snoqualmie Pass. The next one is planned for March 2.

“With our headlights and the glow of the resort, it makes a surreal excursion,” Stoney said.

Although equipment is often provided for many of the NAC trips, there are some important things to do before the day of any NAC outdoor adventure. Stoney said it’s important to dress appropriately, dressing in layers to maximize comfort in the great outdoors.

“Dressing in layers is a simple concept that allows you to make adjustments based on activity level and the weather,” Stoney said.

The base layer clothing, meant to manage moisture, should be composed of merino wool, synthetic fibers or silk. The middle layer should be composed of natural fibers, such as wool or fleece. The outer layer should be roomy enough to fit the other layers without restricting movement, such as waterproof and breathable shells like Goretex.

Stoney also recommends checking the weather forecasts to properly plan for upcoming trips. The NAC often uses the National Weather Service to make decisions based on weather conditions, as well as the Northwest Avalanche Center.

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