Winter Survival

November 27th, 2012 by

The sky changes and winds return to the land bringing frigid days and frosty nights. Leaves have long passed and skeleton trees remain barren and suspended in that shadowy time between seasons. Brown, Gray and White bark exposed to a harsh environment. Waters begin to freeze, locking life beneath thick ice for the start of many long months. Flakes drift from gray skies, dancing ever downward in spirals, twists and turns. Stars glisten upon frozen white while moon glides cross darkness of night. Bone cracking cold sets in and blankets if billowing white build over the land. Winter arrives and the North Country becomes enslaved in its icy grip and growing dark. The difference between life and death now teeters upon the edge of a frigid blade. Mastery becomes essential…

To those who do not know winter, real winter, this may all seem like a lot of fluff. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Survival and living outdoors in the winter of the North Country requires a great deal of skill, honed and proven. The season of winter is unforgiving and leaves zero room for error. I hear and see people with their Track Packs (survival bags, bugout bags) in their cars and homes. However, I understand full well that the majority of those people have very little honed skills with true survival, especially in winter. If push came to shove those Track Packs would do them little good in the outdoor winter nights when temperatures plummet to negative 20 or more. Without the honed skills to go with the tools you might carry, the tools become useless. When your fingers are frozen, night is setting in, fear is creeping inside and trees burst open from the cold it comes down to your skills to keep you alive- tools are always second. Building fire in your yard or garage on a nice day with flint and steel, a lighter, matches of even a bow drill is one thing. Building a successful fire at night in 4 feet of snow with temperatures far below the zero mark is quite another, especially in a real “survival” situation. The night, the land and the extreme cold will not give you a second chance if you should fail the first time.

The Ways Of The Wild Institute Winter Survival level 1 course is coming up in January of 2013. This is truly a real Winter Survival course, not one that takes place in a heated building where skills are explained. For three days and two nights students delve deeply and solely into real winter survival skills. They come to understand firsthand the importance of the mind, emotion, body, skill and environment while learning highly practical winter survival skills in the mountains of Vermont. I am a firm believer in real time practice. How can you successfully learn winter survival skills unless you are actually immersed in the winter landscape so that you can fully experience the entire situation? In my experience, you cannot. I have had students come to me who claimed to really know fire and the ways of fire. Once they got into the winter landscape and had to create fire in deep snow, winds and freezing temps they found out they didn’t know as much about the element fire as they thought. There are a lot of folk out there who claim to be able to survival outdoors in adverse conditions during a hard winter…but are they tested? What is their experience?

Winter is a true tester. It allows for no lies to be upheld. Winter survival is black and white, you either know the skill or you don’t.  This is why it is such an amazingly wonderful practice zone! It leaves no room for questioning if you do or do not understand the skills at hand.

Here in the northern mountains of Vermont we can have January conditions as extreme as negative 40 degree nights and days that top out at negative 15 degrees Fahrenheit. 4 to 6 feet of snow can cover the ground and icy winds can sweep the land from the north. On the other hand it can be 33 degrees by day with only a few inches of snow and in the teens at night. That is far more rare, but it does happen on occasion.

Winter Survival takes place this January on the 18th, 19th and 20th here in Vermont. For all the details visit our course page for Winter Survival. If you want to learn, really learn winter survival skills and you feel you are ready, then perhaps this course is for you? There is limited space and some folks have already put down deposits so if you are interested please inquire. I will be posting reminders about this course again…


This content is exclusively for Members of Element Mountain’s Wolf’s Den.

Wolf’s Den is a highly interactive, private area within Element Mountain providing a gem of information reserved exclusively for Wolf’s Den members. Wolf’s Den content contains powerful teachings presented nowhere else.

To find out how to gain access to this exclusive, private content for Wolf’s Den members, or to learn more, read the finer details here.