Climbing gyms are a great way to shake off the winter blues and keep active in cold weather. Photo by Conner Dehaven

Despite the Cold, Get Your Excercise

Winter can create difficulties for families and college students alike. The difficulty is finding fun activities to do. The cold weather often keeps people inside and can cause seasonal depression and more stress and anxieties for college students. Getting out and being active is one of the best ways to keep your mental health in check. Especially with friends and family. There are many great activities in the Eastern Panhandle for college students to enjoy.

The first activity and one of my personal favorites is indoor rock climbing. There are a few indoor rock-climbing gyms in the area. The closest to Shepherd University is Climbing New Heights located at 54 General Motors Access Road in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

There are two types of climbing that can be done. The two styles are top rope climbing and bouldering. Top rope climbing is done by wearing a harness with a rope tied to it. The rope reaches up to the top of the wall. A person called the belayer keeps tension in the rope to prevent the climber from falling.

The other style of climbing is called bouldering. Bouldering does not require a harness or someone to belay the climber. The wall goes up to 14-feet compared to the 26-foot top rope wall. This is the best option for someone on a budget or someone climbing solo.

Climbing New Heights has day passes as well as rentals available if you do not have your own gear. If going with friends, they provide belay lessons. But if you are going by yourself you can pay to have an employee belay you four times.

The next closest climbing gym is The Boulder Yard located at 5714 Industry Lane in Frederick, Maryland. This gym started off as strictly a bouldering gym but recently opened a top rope section as well. The Boulder Yard provides the same amenities as Climbing New Heights but has a larger building.

The Boulder Yard also has a small gym in a separate room from the climbing area. They have bench presses, squat racks, treadmills, and other equipment.

Garrett Johnson, a climber at The Boulder Yard said, “Climbing is a great indoor activity as the community is so pure and comes together to help teach, support, and encourage everyone’s success.” The indoor climbing gyms are sort of like a judgment free zone and provides and area to learn the sport.

There is not only a physical side to the sport but also a mental side. Some of the routes can be challenging and require more technique and problem solving than strength. “Trying to figure out how to solve a boulder problem helps mask the exercise aspect of climbing,” says Johnson, “ It feels good when you complete a route that you’ve been working on for a while.”

There is also a larger chain of climbing gyms called Movement. There are two located in Columbia and Rockville, Maryland, as well as one in Arlington, Virginia. These gyms provide more areas to climb and more staff available to help.

These gyms are much larger than the local climbing gyms. They start at 27,000 square feet and go up from there. These gyms have fitness areas and yoga classes as well. Although these gyms have much more available than the smaller gyms, I would suggest supporting the smaller local businesses.

For those who do not mind the colder weather, the ski resorts in the area are a great winter activity. They are perfect for families or groups of friends.

There are two resorts within an hour of Shepherdstown. The closest is Whitetail Resort, a 45-minute drive in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. The next closest is Liberty Resort at 55 minutes away, in Fairfield. Pennsylvania.

Both resorts are owned by the same company, Vail Resorts, which is based in Colorado.

This means procedures and pricing will be similar for both resorts. Lift tickets for adults are $84 dollars and both resorts provide discounted lift tickets if you plan on going after 3 p.m. The resorts also have rental equipment for sale.

Some first-time skiers and riders prefer to hop on the slopes and learn on their own. But for those who are not into that method, they have lessons available.

The mountains are a great winter activity due to the wide-open space. Each mountain has either three or four levels of difficulty. Green trails, blue trails, black trails, and double black trails. These go in order from easiest to hardest. This provides terrain for anyone who has been skiing their whole life or those who just started.

 A skier on the lift at Whitetail resort said, “I love skiing because it is a fun activity if you are by yourself or with friends. When you have friends with you, they push you to be more adventurous, but also by yourself it can be very therapeutic.”

Going skiing or snowboarding is also a great Covid friendly activity. The open space keeps groups of people away from each other. It is good to keep in mind that resorts owned by Vail require vaccines to enter any dining area. Masks are also required indoors but not outside on the mountain.

For people who are not interested in skiing or snowboarding can also go snowtubing. Both resorts have snowtubing areas. Each participant gets a tube and if you have multiple people the tubes can be connected together. Snowtubing is a lot of fun for large groups.

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