Potholes. Rubber boots. Blocked storm drains. Exceedingly icy skiing. It’s beginning to really feel like shoulder season here in Alberta.
When the snow is too icy (or non-existent) for enjoyable skiing, you don’t quite know what to expect when it comes to hiking (will it be muddy? will it be icy? how many layers is too many?) and the temperatures aren’t yet ideal for tent camping — you know it’s shoulder season.
Shoulder season is a weird in-between time of year that occurs every spring. Then, it happens again every fall, when it’s too cool for summer activities but there’s not enough snow for winter fun.
For those who live close to popular mountain towns, shoulder season (April/May and September/October) can be an ideal time to score hotel deals and enjoy a visit outside of busy tourist times.
We find our weekend calendars tend to ease up in shoulder season (no more back-to-back ski trips in winter or camping/hiking trips in summer), which makes it a great time to get prepared for the next season of activities and get excited for the sunshine! greenery! and fun! that is yet to come.
This week, we’re bringing you four things we recommend you do this shoulder season. If you’ve got any favourite things to do in shoulder season, share them in the comments or in our Substack chat.
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Wash, Fix & Organize Your Gear
This is a big one! Trust us, future you will thank past you! We like to keep our seasonal gear in bins and then do a big Tech Wash before putting snowpants, mitts, winter jackets, etc. away for the year. Don’t forget to check your pockets before retiring your gear for the season. It’s also a good time to patch any clothing that needs a fix or tune-up gear like skis.
We also recommend taking note of what worked and what didn’t this year and what you may need for next winter. The end of the season can often be a good time to get gear for next season, as it goes on sale. (Time for our semi-regular plug for Last Hunt… if you’re good with the no return policy). Annalise’s To Buy For Next Winter List includes replacing a pair of liner gloves she lost and getting new ski googles, while Cailynn is eyeing new snow pants.
A very muddy April boler trip
Stock Up On Snacks
If you’re anything like Annalise, you spend a lot of time thinking about snacks before, during, and also after outdoor activities. The changing temperatures that come with shoulder season mean snacks that were maybe off-limits in winter because they would freeze and/or break your teeth are now back on the menu. (Hello fuzzy peaches, Swedish berries and gummy bears.)
We recommend buying outdoor snacks in large quantities so you don’t have to trek to the grocery store every time you’re heading on an adventure. This is a piece of advice from Annalise that Cailynn only started listening to recently, and it is a game changer. In fact, Annalise has a specific Outdoor Food Spot in her cupboard, which also includes backpacking food. Around this time of year, she’ll start dehydrating curries/stews/soups anytime there’s a fair bit of leftovers. This thinking ahead means there will be plenty of dehydrated meals to take on summer backpacking trips. If you’re sensing a shoulder season theme, it’s to look out for future you!
A snack break on a warm April hike
Set Some Spring/Summer Goals
Shoulder season is an ideal time to reflect on the previous months and set goals for the next ones. Did you get outside as much as you were hoping? What did you learn? What do you want to get better at? What do you want to do? A highlight of Annalise’s winter was spending every Friday in February with three friends and a freeride ski instructor at Lake Louise — something that was booked in…you guessed it…shoulder season aka last September.
Shoulder season is an ideal time to look into any courses you may want to take, research gear you may need, book trips you want to do, and find people who want to do the same activities as you.
Standup Paddleboarding more often is on Annalise’s To Do List for this Summer, while Cailynn wants to try bikepacking with a toddler.
Just because you may get muddy, you could slip on ice, and you’ll likely have to change up your layers more frequently, this doesn’t mean you should skip going outside in shoulder season. There are many benefits! No bugs. No sunburns. Way less busy trails. Just be prepared for inclement weather and you’ll have a great time.
Mount Lorette Ponds in April.
Hi Annalise and Cailynn, I so appreciate this newsletter for ideas on new hikes I can drag my family to lol! Next month I celebrate a milestone birthday the big 4-0 and I am planning a hike to lake Minnawaka near Banff with some girlfriends. This is a new hike for me so asking for any advice on what to prepare for other than ice and snow which we expect because its April.