When we grow up singing “Rain, rain, go away, come again another day,” it’s hard not to be disappointed when the weather takes a downturn. Sure, rain and snow and cold can certainly be, well, inclement. While you don’t need to welcome the rain that cancels your picnic plans or rejoice when a snowstorm makes your commute harrowing, sunshine isn’t the only condition to celebrate in the outdoors. In fact, there are advantages to a rainstorm, some good packable snow and even sub-zero temperatures that create unique and rare opportunities for experiences and activities that just aren’t possible on a sunny day. Here are five reasons to enjoy the outdoors in all of its elements.
1. Witness Diamond Dust
The coldest time of day is during the moments right before and after sunrise and on winter expeditions, you’ll have the opportunity to witness diamond dust, one of the most beautiful, rare sights you can only experience in sub-zero temperatures. Diamond dust occurs when the temperature in the air above the ground is warmer than the air near the surface. The water vapor from the warmer air mixes with the cooler air, causing humidity to increase and ice crystals to form. The ice crystals form a ground-level cloud that literally looks like a million sparkling diamonds floating all around you. So throw on that anorak, stir yourself awake at sunrise and brave the cold for something few people get to see in their lifetimes.
2. Hit the Tacky Trails
While rain can certainly turn mountain biking trails to mud and ruin plans, a light rain and even melted snow can create the perfect trail conditions for traction. Especially in environments like Colorado and Utah where the terrain is dry and the risk of sliding on fine dirt and eroded rocks is higher, mountain bikers will often rejoice on cloudy, damp days. Tacky trails provide much-needed traction that allow bikers to ride faster and with greater ease. Cloud cover can not only provide protection from heat stroke on hot, exposed desert trails, but it can also prevent dangerous sun glare that makes it difficult to spot obstacles ahead.
3. Build Snow Shelters
The best part about a good snowstorm when you’re a kid is the chance to spend the entire day off from school building an elaborate snow fort. Those skills you cultivated when you were young still apply on winter expeditions. Really, it’s not too different. If you’re backpacking or mountaineering, snow walls serve as windbreaks, to protect your tent from gusts that can topple a shelter. To prep a site, you may need to harden the snow first by boot packing or tamping it with a shovel to create a firm, solid base. The foundation will keep you from settling into the snow beneath you as you sleep!
4. Try Ice Climbing
Who says the climbing season has to end with the warm weather? Pick up ice climbing and you won’t need to travel to the desert to keep climbing year round. The sport has its own variety of conditions too, just like powder on the slopes. Ice has a bit of the Goldilocks thing going for it: too hard, too soft, just right. Cold temperatures produce firmer ice that holds protection like ice screws. However, it can also be brittle. Warm ice is more pliable so it’s easier for ice picks and crampons to bite in. Think of ice climbing conditions like plastic vs. concrete: plastic is softer and more forgiving to work with, but concrete is often stronger.
5. Make Epic Outdoor Memories
Some of the best memories in the outdoors are made during times of challenge and discovery. Next time the weather calls for less-than-desirable conditions, don’t let the news cancel your plans. Instead, don a good rain jacket, and pants if necessary, and approach the day as a challenge to appreciate nature in all of its elements, literally. Not only will you never forget the time you put up a tarp shelter in a downpour, paddled down a river in headwinds or backpacked in knee-deep snow, you’ll have a lot more confidence the next time you venture out. Not to mention an epic story of adventure to share with all your friends. After all, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad attitudes.
About the Author
Mandi Goyn is the Content Coordinator for the Outward Bound Services Group. Storytelling is at the heart of most everything she does. She’s a writer, a wedding photographer, a rock climber, a craft coffee addict and a cat-mom.
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