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Hacks for Ski-Area Parking Lot Camping

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Camping in a ski-area parking lot is allowed at various resorts across the West—but you’ve got to be prepared for low temperatures. In this episode of the 101, Bryan Rogala talks with Axie Navas, director of outdoor recreation for New Mexico, and her husband, John Clary Davies, a copywriter for Avocado Green Brands, who spend weekends living in their Cricket trailer at Taos Ski Valley. The two share some tips and tricks for staying comfortable during overnight adventures in cold weather.

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Video Transcript

BRYAN ROGALA: Hey, guys. Bryan Rogala here for Outside. This is The 101. We are hanging out in Taos Ski Valley right now my friends Axie and John. Axie is the Director of Outdoor Recreation for the State of New Mexico. John is a former editor at Powder Magazine. He's a writer, outdoor writer.

So these guys are big-time skiers. They're up here pretty much every weekend. They're basically winter camping pros. So we're going to get a full tour of their camper here in the next video, but right now we're going to get some tips from you guys on winter camping in general. Because there's a lot of stuff that you have to think about that you don't have to think about in the summertime.

What are some pro tips that you guys have? What have you learned after a couple of years of camping in this thing in the wintertime?

AXIE NAVAS: I think the first one is just to embrace the fact that it's going to be really frickin' cold. And so just embracing it at the very start, I feel like, sets you off on the right foot. And so we have a couple hacks within that, you know? We know that our water's going to freeze, so we always bring a couple of insulated water bottles to make sure that there's water in the morning.

We always fill up our tea kettle the night before so we can just put it on the burner, melt it right out, and then have coffee pretty quickly.


AXIE NAVAS: And then winter camping in a ski area parking lot, we always have to worry about our ski boots freezing. So we give ourselves a good hour with those boots in front of the propane heater--


AXIE NAVAS: --before we try and put them on.

BRYAN ROGALA: Makes sense.

JOHN CLARY DAVIES: Speaking of cold footwear, cold feet, another hack-- always have a good pair of slippers.


JOHN CLARY DAVIES: It keeps the feet warm. It's also these are just easy to slip on. So if you have to run outside real quick, it's not a big deal. It keeps things cleaner.

AXIE NAVAS: And it gets wet in there, so it's just nice to not have wet socks.

BRYAN ROGALA: Do you guys do anything to manage the moisture, condensation, and things like that?

AXIE NAVAS: We have a lot of towels in here. The dogs always lick up the water for us. We also, yeah, just have drip towels and kind of manage it that way.


AXIE NAVAS: But it's not a huge deal.

JOHN CLARY DAVIES: We just try to keep things really simple, you know? Without running water, we always have a pretty limited supply of water we just try to use for drinking. And so we'll have, like, premade soups that we'll bring up. Just stuff like that.

Oatmeal in the morning, and, you know, snacks, cold cuts for lunch. We try to keep it really simple.

AXIE NAVAS: Another tip related to just the cold and being up here is our sleeping situation. You know, we found that there's no need to have a negative 15 or a 0 degree bag.


AXIE NAVAS: Even though those are the temperatures we're dealing with most nights, we just have a big down comforter and then a bunch of various blankets. It gets pretty cozy in there and we don't need super expensive down sleeping bags to be comfortable.

BRYAN ROGALA: Sure. Spend that money on another lift ticket and--

AXIE NAVAS: Exactly.

BRYAN ROGALA: Keep it easy.


JOHN CLARY DAVIES: Speaking of staying warm, I try to limit my fluid intake past 7:00, 7:30. So I cut myself-- no more beer, no more water. Because I don't want to have to get up in the middle of the night too often. Because it can get really cold. It's pretty bad.


JOHN CLARY DAVIES: It takes a while to warm up from that.

AXIE NAVAS: Especially in the winter, if you're taking a camper like this off road or just in rough parking lots, shit's going to break. And so just being OK with that, not letting it stress you out. That means you're getting a lot of enjoyment from it.

And, you know, rivets coming loose or the sidewall is starting to come apart, all of that's really fixable. And just not to spend too much headspace worrying about that, and just enjoying the whole experience, and knowing that you're doing what you love and what the thing is supposed to do.

BRYAN ROGALA: That's what it's made for.



AXIE NAVAS: It's a tool, not a jewel.

BRYAN ROGALA: There you go. Tools not jewels.


OK, well, if you like this video and want to see more, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel. Check out the full tour of John and Axie's Cricket up next. And otherwise, we'll see you next time.

The 101