Bring a friend (or two)
Whether you’re hiking along urban or wilderness trails, go with a group for added safety, suggests Todd Bardes, president of Hike Ontario, a federation of 23 hiking clubs. “Most people who join our clubs do so for the camaraderie,” he says. “We often go out for a hot cup of cider afterwards.”
Take your time
On snowy days, it may take twice the amount of time to walk the same distance on a dry day. “You’ll tire more quickly, so you’ll probably need to take more breaks,” says Vance. “Allow yourself plenty of time to return during daylight, and make sure others know where you’ve gone and when you expect to return.”
Pack right and light
Take water to stay hydrated and snacks to maintain your energy throughout the hike. Also, carry a small emergency kit with a fire source and a thermal blanket – about the size of a deck of cards, when folded – to help retain heat if you get off course.
Choose your route carefully
Many wilderness trails aren’t maintained over the season, so exercise caution. “Slipping would be the main concern if the snow and ice aren’t removed,” says Vance. To maintain balance, carry a walking stick or hiking poles. A pair of removable cleats for your shoes may help on icy streets. Make sure you pick up a map, too, even if you know the trail. “On most established trails, the route is quite clear,” says Vance, “but snowy conditions can disguise trail markers so a map helps you stay aware of where you are at all times.” For information on winter hiking destinations in your community, visit the Canadian Volkssport Federation, which organizes non-competitive walks through scenic suburban and urban routes across Canada.