Being Prepared for Winter in the Open Space

By Gary Norton, Park Ranger

A change in the weather during warmer months can be a minor inconvenience, while being caught off guard in the winter has the potential for severe consequences. Checking the forecast before going out can better prepare you for these conditions. Always let someone know where you will be going and your estimated time of arrival back home. Hiking, biking, snowshoeing or skiing up steep foothill trails can be exhausting and cause you to work up a sweat even in frigid conditions. Dressing in layers can prevent overheating and allow you to better adapt to changing conditions.

The heat produced from exertion can be deceiving; if an extended stop is necessary due to an emergency or from exhaustion, the body can quickly become chilled and can lead to medical emergencies like hypothermia. Avoid wearing cotton clothing. Cotton takes a long time to dry and could lead to continual cooling of your core temperature. Synthetic or wool base layers wick moisture away from your body, dry quickly and have the ability to thermo regulate, even when wet. An extra layer, like a wind shell, can trap extra heat while sedentary, block the wind and can be easily packed away while on the move. The fine balance of exertion and your body’s attempt to maintain a certain core temperature can burn a lot of calories. Bring plenty of water and high energy food on your winter outings. As we all know, the sun sets early in the winter months, so if you leave in the afternoon for your outing, give yourself plenty of time to return before dark.

Winter essentials: 

  • Dress in layers. Light weight thermo regulating base layers made of wool or synthetic fibers. Include a hat and gloves.
  • Wind and water-resistant shell
  • Plenty of high calorie food and water
  • Survival kit with a fire starter, space blanket, whistle, compass, first aid supplies and a source of light to navigate if you find yourself out in the dark
  • Don’t count on a cell phone for help. You could be out of service or your battery could run out.     

Be aware of trail closures for muddy conditions

Lower Cougar, Colorow and the Bluebird Bird trail may be closed periodically throughout the season due to muddy conditions. Information can be found at:



Pets should be leashed and under the owner’s control at all times.

Even though it is hard to keep your pet leashed while using poles, or when you decide to go to the local sledding area, the open space use rule #4 regarding leash regulations still applies. Coyotes and other predators may be more likely to approach pets that are loose and away from their owners when their normal food supplies are scarce. A dog off leash may be inclined to chase deer and other wildlife. Wildlife can use up scarce energy reserves trying to flee from a loose pet. Harassment of wildlife is also a fineable offence under Colorado state law and can lead to expensive citation. Other trail users will appreciate an under-control pet while they are navigating snowy terrain.

With proper preparation and adherence to a few simple guidelines, winter is a good time to get out and enjoy the trail system. If you have any questions regarding trail conditions or any open space matters, give the ranger staff a call at 303-979-1876, ext. 170.


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