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I t finally feels like winter in Boulder!

And what with the snow, my face going numb on the walk to school, and the prospect of winter break looming just past finals, I can’t stop thinking about all the winter recreating we’re going to do in a mere two weeks: skiing, sledding, snowshoeing and — my personal favorite — winter camping.

There’s no better reason to look forward to the morning than having shivered all night long, then arising to gorgeous, snowy woods. But best of all, being a good winter camper can help make you an excellent cheapskate — because it reminds of how little you really need to be psyched about life.

So here are some ways that winter camping is good for your soul — especially the frugal part of your soul.

First off, winter camping is hard. There’s no lazing around in meadows in the afternoons; no sitting pensively and watching the sunset; not even joy, really, because the whole time there’s this knowledge of possible hypothermia lurking in the background.

There is, though, pride in whatever gnarly mountain you’re summiting, and the knowledge that you’re more hardcore than your numb toes. And when you come back to the car, just the fact of turning on the heater and being warm is enough to make you super happy.

What I’m saying is that winter camping lowers your expectations — and even the small things feel magnificent. (When fruit leather/hummus cracker sandwiches taste this good, who needs filet mignon?)

Winter camping also makes you more creative. Just think: you’re making dinner while you’re shivering in the cold. Are you really going get all complicated and fry the onions in a whole separate skillet while your pasta cools down? Um, no. In fact, you’re not even going to bring either of those things. You’re going to bring dried mashed potatoes and onion flakes and just wolf the resulting mess as fast as you can.

When you get back to civilization, the same idea applies: you think of food in terms of basic nutritional content more than anything else, so anything fancy seems superfluous. All of a sudden, using the water from your roommate’s fresh mozzarella as a substitute for milk in pancakes makes so much sense — they’re both dairy-related liquids, after all. And you don’t have to buy milk again!

Most of all, winter camping makes you appreciate the beauty of efficiency. Being able to dig a solid snow cave in minutes is awesome, and also kind of a necessity in mid-January mountains. There’s no room for dorking around with extra nonsense.

And this, too, carries over. Back at home, you’ll be more likely to make coffee and then speed-walk to school than meander over to Starbucks and spend $5 for a paper cup with some sugar in it.

Basically, even though gear can be expensive, and getting to the mountains unavoidably costs a fair bit of gas, you should probably go and sleep outside anyway. You’ll spend the rest of break so enthused about real beds and furnaces that you’ll totally forget to spend money on anything else.

Like an oil change for your wallet, camping in the snow costs a bit now — but it makes your gas mileage better and your repair bills smaller in the long run.

Vivian Underhill is an environmental sciences major at CU and writes about being cheap once a week for the Colorado Daily.

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