Unsurprisingly, so many of us are here in the Jackson Hole region because we are delighted in this place. Whether you’ve been here for 20+ years, a transplant resident of 5 years, a part-timer, or passing through to visit, the same energy of this place pulls us in. 

However half of the year is cold, gray, and snowy which can take a toll on our mental health (hello, seasonal affective disorder). Fear not! There are tricks to help navigate these dark months. One of the most desirable remedies for the winter blues is hitting those winter trails.

The Physical and Mental Benefits of Cross-Country Skiing

St. John’s Health references the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and recommends that adults aim to get about 2.5 hours (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. While this can seem a bit more difficult during the colder months, there are plenty of outdoor activities you and your family can do to add to your weekly fitness goal.

Winter trails fun – JH Nordic approved:

  • Nordic skiing (cross country skiing: classic & skate skiing)
  • Snowshoeing or winter walking (with or without your dog!)
  • Fat biking 
  • Hiking and trail running
  • Easy to bring along the kids (Chariots are the best!)
  • Easy way to exercise the dog

Get Out and Get Moving!

Enjoying winter trails via cross-country skiing provides bilateral stimulation, engaging both sides of the body. This symmetrical movement pattern enhances cognitive function and emotional regulation, contributing to improved feelings of well-being and mental health. Equally important is the opportunity to immerse ourselves in nature. Getting outside, breathing fresh air, and soaking up natural light are essential for combating feelings of depression often associated with the winter season. Winter trail activities allow us to connect with the beauty of our surroundings while engaging in a fulfilling outdoor activity.

“So many research studies prove what many of us living in the Tetons know intuitively—moving our bodies is a critical component of being mentally well,” explains Sara McKeown White, Executive Director of Mental Health Coalition of Teton Valley.

Mental Health Coalition of Teton Valley Nordic ski day -Photo: Sara McKeown White

Nordic Skiing Fosters Community

“Some of my favorite ones [studies] point to the exponential benefits of pairing exercise with being in nature and connecting with our loved ones.” McKeown White continues. “With a lot of us experiencing record-breaking levels of loneliness, anxiety, and depression, getting outside shouldn’t just be about breaking a sweat. But a way we can take care of our mental health and those we love. So grab a friend and get outside,” suggests McKeown White.

Text a friend to rendezvous with you on the Emily’s Pond Levee, Cache Creek, or Stilson Loop, which are all easily accessible from the town of Jackson. Or in Teton Valley, Mike Harris, Sherman Park, Teton Canyon,  or Alta Track on the western side of the Tetons. Although skate skiing is a great way to sweat it out solo, classic cross-country skiing or snowshoeing allows for side-by-side conversations and a much-needed excursion.

If you’ve never tried Nordic skiing, it’s easy . Learning something new stimulates our minds and provides a sense of accomplishment, boosting self-esteem and confidence.

“I was fortunate to participate in the JH Ski and Snowboard Club’s Nordic Masters program. I was surprised by how much fun we had playing games together,” shares Charlotte Alexander, Executive Director of The Mental Health Wellness Collaborative. “Whether cheering for teammates during diminishing equipment relay races or sharing laughter after falls, we truly had a blast.”

“If you struggle with the winter blues, consider grabbing a friend, heading outdoors, and embarking on a Nordic skiing adventure. Not only will you be moving your body and engaging in a fulfilling activity, but you’ll also be nurturing your mental health and well-being.”

Charlotte Alexander,
Executive Director of The Mental Health Wellness Collaborative

Photos: Charlotte Alexander

St. John’s Health Wellness – A Nordic Ski Event

Natalie Stewart, Director of St. John’s Health’s Wellness Department, a registered nurse and wellness coach, recently organized their 1st Annual Employee Nordic Ski event, in partnership between St. John’s Health (SJH) Wellness Department and Foundation, Jackson Hole Nordic Alliance, Skinny Skis, JD High Country Outfitters, and Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis. They hosted 18 SJH employees, 17 of whom were new to Nordic skiing. 

“As we were gathering, an eagle soared over our heads to set the tone for the day,” reflects Stewart. “We brought a cross section of SJH employees together on a beautiful blue bird day for fun and recreation.”

“This event fostered a positive connection between our amazing colleagues, nature, community volunteers, and the exhilarating experience of aerobic exercise. We even included a healthy snack created by our dietary department, a mix of nuts and mandarin oranges,” says Stewart.

“They had fun, people laughed (no one cried), and everyone felt their skis glide,” Abby Warner, Executive Director of the JH Nordic Alliance, recalls the successful gathering. “Dozens of questions about gear, technique, and trails were asked and answered, and staff from the hospital enjoyed connecting in a new way with this place in winter and with each other.”

Nordic and winter trail recreation hit many pillars of lifestyle medicine – nutrition, exercise, relationships, and stress reduction. Everyone expressed gratitude for their Nordic ski experience!

Advocate for your well-being and enjoy winter trails

You heard it here, folks (from the experts): getting outside and enjoying the winter trails helps your overall well-being. We hope you take care and get out on those winter trails!

Photos: Natalie Stewart

Explore JH Nordic



  • July Summer Trail Report
    Happy Height of Summer!  Explore your favorite winter trails during the summer months. It’s a great idea to familiarize yourself with a trail now and then follow up with a ski next winter, deepening your connection to place by seeing these places in different seasons. HIKINGNot sure where to start? Go to JHNordic.com, click on “Trails” in the Nav bar, click on the “hiking” icon. Add other filters for a specific region, difficulty, dog friendly, distance… Read More