Yukoners spend a great deal of time hiking in the summer months, but what about winter?

Having worked as a hiking guide for the past few years, I’ve recently decided that I enjoy winter outings far more than summer ones.

That’s not to say I don’t spend a considerable amount of time enjoying the summer season, it’s just that winter has a greater appeal for me.

Let me give you some background. I live in Dawson City and have discovered something wonderful. I have realized that living in the Yukon is a gift and in order to appreciate this gift, I spend time on the land.

I grew up in New Brunswick in the middle of the snowbelt, so early on I learned to appreciate winter and all the personal adventures that come with it.

These adventures led to dreams of a land where winter had even more influence, and in 2007 I made the journey to the Yukon. My intention was to spend a few months, but as fate would have it, I have been playing in the outdoors ever since.

So why do I pick winter hiking over summer hiking? Well, quite simply it’s because of the added challenges that winter presents.

Whether a person is hiking along a frozen path on a river or snowshoeing in the back country, nature has you in its grip and you have to pay close attention to what you are doing and how you are doing it.

These things are important in the summer as well, but I think we can agree winter has more bite, and that makes the hiking all the more challenging. If you are an avid hiker, you know exactly what I am talking about.

Hiking in the winter can be a great workout, especially if you are snowshoeing and hiking in a cold environment. Winter hikes can make a person feel more alive at a time of year that challenges many with seasonal darkness.

As well, adventuring outside allows the hiker to hear more and to be more in tune with their environment.

Winter can be a quiet time for the hiker and, because of the way that sound seems to travel a little further, it’s an opportunity to listen for wildlife that you may have overlooked in the summer.

Black-capped chickadees and white-winged crossbills will get your attention with their music.

Red foxes get more daring in the winter as food becomes harder to find, therefore making them easier to spot. And the mighty Yukon moose will think twice about running away from you as they try to conserve their energy in the cold.

So hiking in the winter may bring you closer to wildlife.

If you are like me, you moved to the Yukon for those special moments where you are face-to-face with wildlife in an environment that for the most part remains uncorrupted. Winter allows you to “contemplate” the land.

The Dawson City region has many great areas to hike, snowshoe or ski in the winter. Here are a few:

The Ninth Avenue Trail is great if you want to get out for an hour or so.

The Moosehide Slide Trail Lookout is ideal for watching the sun set this time of year.

Tr’ ochek Heritage Site, located just across the Klondike River, is a great place to try out snowshoeing. Be careful to check ice conditions if you venture across the river.

The Ridge Road Heritage Trail is a wonderful location to try some overnight camping. Make sure to bring some friends.

The Fire Tower Road offers hikers a chance for a really good workout.

Tombstone Park is great for just about any winter activity. Check in with Yukon Environment before spending any time in the back country.

7) The Yukon Quest Trail (February 2012) is a great place to ski or hike, but check the ice conditions before venturing out.

I have hiked these areas many times and I challenge readers to experience their own personal winter adventures. Have fun and take some time to contemplate the beauty that surrounds us.

So, is winter hiking better than summer hiking? It’s probably a close call but there’s only one way to find out.

Dress warmly, bring lots of snacks and make sure to tell a friend where you are going in case your outing turns into a real adventure. And remember, life is short but Yukon winters are long!