Know Before You Go: Winter Travel Prep – Seattle

The Seattle community hosted a virtual kick-off to winter hiking and snowshoeing season with a 'know before you go' lesson in winter travel preparations.

Partners from throughout the region shared tips and stories in order to keep yourself and your party safe this winter. Topics included weather, avalanche reports, trip planning, activity selection, gear, layering, essentials, injury prevention, and case studies. Watch the whole event below or skim through the sections to learn more.

Play Outside

We believe in the transformative play of the outdoors.

“We go to nature for many reasons. For some, it is an escape. For others, a place to feel humbled and inspired. It is a space for sitting and reflecting, a place to wonder and fill our minds with awe. For many of us, nature offers a place to feel challenged and empowered–digging deep into our abilities, bumping up against our insecurities.” - Dr. Sara Boilen, SheJumps Board Member

Love Winter


“I can think of no better friend these days than nature herself. In a time when our normal routine has been upended, courage is requisite. We must now solve problems we have never before faced. Every one of us is perched atop a proverbial line, prompted to drop in, scared to fall...I can't think of another time while on Earth when nature, as teacher, as healer, as therapist, as community builder, has been more essential.” - Dr. Sara Boilen, SheJumps Board Member

Safety First

SheJumps wants everyone to enjoy the healing power of the outdoors. To have the transformative experiences in our wild spaces that shape us into the people we are meant to be.

In order to have successful outdoor adventures you need to plan and prepare properly in order to keep yourself and your party safe. Ensuring you have a positive experience and return time after time to enjoy all our vibrant Earth has to offer.

The following tips and tricks will help you prep for your next winter adventure.

Weather Forecast

Presenter: Northwest Avalanche Center, Charlotte

Start winter planning and use the forecast to apply it to your day out in the mountains. Keep in mind the weather is a meteorologist's best guess. When you’re using the forecast, it’s even more important to think of all the details, like temperature, wind, elevation, and snow level.

Before you go, make sure you can get to the trailhead or where the snow parking option is. Check the road conditions ahead of time. If your driving route goes over a mountain pass, check to see if there are any restrictions or closures. Highway webcams provide a real-time visual of the road and make sure you have chains that fit your tires as a backup option.



Presenter: Northwest Avalanche Center, Charlotte

Avalanches only occur in avalanche terrain. Many of our favorite hikes in the PNW collide with avalanche terrain. A summertime hike, like the Snow Lake or Granite Mountain, do have avalanche risk once the snow accumulates.

If you’re backcountry skiing or snowboarding, most of you will be heading into avalanche terrain when the slope angle is roughly 30-degrees and above. If you do head into avalanche terrain, prepare yourself with gear (transceiver, shovel, and probe). Don’t only carry the gear but know how to use it in case an avalanche occurs and make sure you travel with an informed partner. Consider taking an awareness course or AIARE Level 1 to learn how to use the gear and how to travel in avalanche terrain. Check the avalanche forecast as various snow layers can cause moderate to severe avalanche triggers when traveling in the backcountry.

If you’re brand new to it and looking to start, we recommend taking a free awareness course. These courses are a good starting point or exposure of what it takes to travel in the winter.


Skill level

Presenter: Washington Trails Association, Anna

The Washington Trails Association welcomes folks who join the community. They have hiking guides, hike finder maps, among other resources.

Ask yourself: What do you want to get with your time outside?

It will help inform your decisions on where to go. Then ask where you want to go, how much of a challenge you want, and recognize what physical share you’re in. Consider scaling back the mileage you normally do in the summer for winter objectives. The daylight hours are shorter and the terrain can take longer to navigate.

Use the resources below to help plan your trip by checking trip reports, reading trail descriptions, and reviewing the map details.


  • Gaia GPS - Use to trip plan but also in the field.

  • WTA app - WTA Trailblazer that is volunteer built and run.

  • WTA’s Hiking Guide -

  • WTA's Seasonal Hike section

  • Local Facebook Groups: Washington Hikers & Climbers, PNW Outdoor Women

Please return to WTA and share your trip report for others to use.


Presenter: Gaia GPS, Laura

Gaia GPS is a planning and navigation app and website to help you stay safer while exploring the backcountry. Having a tool like Gaia allows you to always have a map and pinpoint exactly where you are in case you lose the trail, inclement weather rolls in, or you just want to see what’s ahead. We always recommend bringing a back-up map and compass.


To find and download a route, you can use Gaia GPS’s database of trails, national parks, wilderness areas and more on or right in the app.

Gaia GPS has hundreds of map layers to test out to find which will work for you. You can also look at national park, satellite imagery, and topographic maps and check for things like precipitation, snow depth, and avalanche danger so you know what to expect before you head out the door.

Start planning on on the big screen. Use public tracks to see where others go and the routes they use. You can save it to your phone, so you have it when you’re in the backcountry.

Tracking and navigating

Using the app, you can record a route of where you’ve been and see where you need to go. You don’t need wifi or cell service to use it–just make sure you download your map and route before you go.

Follow the trails on the map to know where to go when the trails are covered in snow. However, you don’t always need to follow the summer route in the snow. Understand how to read the details on a topographic map if you decide to make your own trail. Also, check the map if you’re following other footpaths in the snow to make sure you know where you’re going and are headed in the right direction.

Sign up for a FREE 3-month trial with Gaia GPS:


Presenter: Washington Trails Association, Anna

Snowshoeing is similar to hiking. Snowshoes give you a floatation mechanism to help break trail and prevent plunging through the snow. Don’t forget layers and the ten essentials for any winter activity you pursue.

Why try snowshoeing?

  • It’s a great winter exercise

  • It’s accessible to all ages and abilities

  • It’s inexpensive

  • It requires only a few basic techniques

Snowshoeing is a lower skill bar than cross-country skiing and downhill skiing. Snowshoeing is basically like hiking with the main difference is keeping your feet a little wider when you walk with snowshoes strapped to your boots.

The biggest tip is knowing you’re traveling through snow. Be prepared that there might not be an established trail and you might end up breaking your own trail.

Snowshoeing gear list

You can find gear to rent at local outfitters or borrow from a friend or a community group.

  • Snowshoes