Gear Warm by NatureHot cocoa and Baileys at your stop along a snowy trail – oh yeah. Carry the warm, sweet pleasure in a Sigg .75 liter (about three cups) thermos. Pre-heat the bottle with boiling water and drinks still steam after 15 hours. $29.95, Outfitter of Harbor Springs, 231-526-2621,

Night LifeRed Light District
Didja know that red light doesn’t dilate your pupils and mess up your night vision nearly as much as white light does? That’s why backyard astronomers use red flashlights to read star charts. It’s also why a headlamp with a red-light option is a beam of choice on the nighttime trail. The Petzl E+Lite has five settings, some white, some red. $29.95, Bearcub Outfitters, Petoskey, 231-439-9500,

Make it RiteRitual is a powerful motivator, so best harness the phenomenon to help get you outdoors in winter. Some men I know who live on Leelanau’s Bow Road do just that. They call it going to church, but the “it” is actually a Sunday morning XC-ski outing they do whenever snow conditions allow.

Like many good rituals, this one is simple but effective. The men meet a half-hour before sunrise at one of their houses. The host decides the route of the day – which of course could change at any point along the way. And then they just head on out. “We ski for about an hour, then stop to drink a cup of coffee, and often there’s a good chance we’ll put Kahlúa in there,” says church regular Mike Binsfeld.A leisurely pace is key, yet it’s still great exercise. The workout comes from a two- or three-hour gentle ski, not from 30 minutes of maxed-out, heart-thumping mania.

And what about that spiritual component? “Oh, I don’t know, man,” Binsfeld says. “It’s just very refreshing to be out in the morning and enjoying the beautiful area we live in. I just really enjoy that edge of day, that early soft light in winter.”

Technique Use that pole strap!Holding a XC-ski/snowshoe pole seems easy enough – just grab that grip, right? Wrong. When you clench the ski pole, you tighten your forearm muscles and create resistance for your heart’s blood pumping – which stresses your heart and wears you out. This same phenomenon contributes significantly to heart attacks during snow shoveling. Avoid the problem by making sure the wrist strap runs under your wrist, then just relax your grip and push down on the strap.

Jeff Smith is editor at Traverse, Northern Michigan’s

Note: This article was originally published in January 2008 and was updated for the web February 2008.