The holidays are over and winter is now in full swing. The bitter cold seems less intense under the mid-day sun and the wind comes and goes leaving moments of stillness in between. The temps are low (or below zero) and daylight is short. But up north, we don’t let this slow us down. In fact, we embrace the cold. Not just because we’ve built up a tolerance to frigid air, but because staying active keeps the winter blues away and gives us a special, rare glimpse into nature’s stark beauty that comes only in the deepest part of winter.
What are the secrets to a perfect winter day? We’re glad you asked. Here’s how we’d spend every precious moment of daylight in our beautiful corner of Voyageurs National Park.
Fresh powder means something exciting up north: it’s sled time. As the first snowflakes touch the ground and start to accumulate, snowmobile covers are lifted, and fuel or gear runs eat up entire afternoons. After you’ve tuned up your sled, checked for fuel, and cleared away the dust, you’ll be anxious to hit the trails. When it’s time to dig out your snow pants, puffy winter coat, and thermal undergarments, we’ve got some tips to keep you safe, informed, and excited about hitting the trails.
Excited to get out and ride? With so many trails to choose from, the hardest part of your trip might be choosing which trail to ride first. Here is a map to help you plan your route.
Remember to have fun and be safe!
Let’s set the mood:
You’re on vacation at Rainy Lake with your family or loved ones, and the dinner table has just been cleared. The sun set an hour ago and the fire has kept everyone warm since the night chill set in. The stars twinkle and the moon seems to be hiding just on the edge of the horizon. Everyone sits back in their seats, drifting in and out of the inevitable sleep that is around the corner.
The story teller in the family continues to brag about the fish she caught in the lake earlier that afternoon and how just when she had it within reach and lifted her rod, the line snapped and the record-breaking fish sank back down into the green-blue water and twisted away, never to be seen again. She continues to talk about the murky water and points to the window before gasping and exclaiming, “It was just like that – green and blue water that swallowed up my fish!” Everyone races to the window and looks up to the skies, ablaze with colors and light. It’s the aurora borealis like you’ve never seen it before.
What Causes the Aurora Borealis?
Aurora borealis, or more commonly known as the Northern Lights, look like bright flowing ribbons in the sky. When electrically charged particles from the sun collide in the earth’s atmosphere, they create photons which display as ribbons of light across the night sky. While they can be seen year-round, the winter months bring prolonged darkness (especially farther north) and give everyone more time to catch a glimpse of their beauty at night.
What You Seek, You Might Find
Cooler winter months often bring silver-grey clouds, allowing for fewer chances to see the clear night sky. But with less light pollution from surrounding cities, your chances of spotting the Northern Lights on a clear night are increased. It’s all about timing.
How to Plan for the Northern Lights
Step 1: If the forecast calls for a clear night with little to no cloud coverage, you’re halfway there. September through March is prime time for Northern Lights viewing but weather doesn’t always allow it. So check the local weather app and proceed to step 2, if the sky is in the clear.
Step 2: Check any of the following apps for viewing predictions. Many factors beyond weather influence your chance at seeing the Northern Lights, including geomagnetic activity, location of the moon, and your exact location. To help you navigate your plan of action, there are apps that predict Northern Light activity and tell you when and where to go for your best chance at seeing the phenomenon. Here are a few popular apps available for iOS and Android:
Need help planning your trip up north? We can help you find accommodations and activities to fill your day with before you settle in and wait for the sky to set ablaze.