IF THERE is anything I’ve learned in more than four decades of “surviving” winter in the North Woods, it’s that staying active can make this a season you no longer dread.

The winter blues are inevitable for those who don’t pick a sport or find some seasonal hobbies, because frankly, few people enjoy months of sub-freezing weather for the pure joy of being cold.

In all honesty, most of us would do well without shoveling snow, slipping across icy parking lots and fighting frigid fingers, numb ears, damp feet and wind-burned faces. The list of winter unpleasantries is long.

Winter goes by much faster for those of us who stay active, from outdoor sports such as snowmobiling and ice fishing to indoor activities that might include pool, darts, bowling, card-playing or some type of hobby.

As the scribbler begins his 43rd winter in the North Woods, my outdoor adventures revolve mostly around fishing, snowmobiling, walking dogs and wildlife photography.

There are occasional mental lapses where I try cross-country skiing and downhill skiing and even snowshoeing, but those slip-sliding experiences usually remind me of why I’m better off fishing.

There is great adventure in snowshoeing into distant hardwoods and swamps and river bottoms, places were you will find the tracks of snowshoe hare, ruffed grouse, deer, fox, coyote and even bobcat. Snow depths aren’t that bad yet.

The other day I was following a set of bobcat prints that meandered through the balsams on the edge of a clearing. I’m guessing it was on the hunt for the red squirrels that frequent those woods, for squirrel tracks were the only other sign of visible life in the fresh snow.

Fishing happens to be on the top of my winter list, starting with some early-ice walleye action in December and moving onto northern pike as the ice thickens and then crappies and perch into March and early April, weather permitting.

It’s especially frustrating in late March when the crappies are biting and you’re basking in 40-degree sun, too warm for a jacket, and suddenly Mother Nature takes away winter. Imagine that, being sad when winter gives up its grip on the landscape.

My latest addition to the winter recreation mix has been serious trail riding with a snowmobile, a sport my wife has wanted to jump into for some time. Whether it’s just the two of us or a longer ride with friends, we’ve found it to be so much fun that we hate to see winter end.

Previous to our purchasing a couple of modern, high-powered trail sleds and all the gear, including helmets with a heated shield, my idea of trail riding was on a two-up fishing sled that took me just far enough into the forest trails to get some decent photos of other snowmobilers.

I’ve had some sort of old two-up fishing sled for decades, a necessity when it comes to accessing remote fishing locations on large lakes when packing a tent, heater, auger, fishing gear and quite often, friends and family who share the passion for pulling fish through holes in the ice. Now we’ve got both kinds of sleds.

But there are also dozens of places where people can walk off boat landings and other public access points to go fishing. You don’t need a snowmobile, ATV or four-wheel-drive truck to get some jig poles or tip-ups out to a fishing spot. Throw the equipment on a small sled and start dragging.

The beauty of ice fishing is that you can not only learn locations and techniques from watching others, but it’s hard to lose a good spot once you find it.

Holes in the ice can easily be marked for future reference. I’ve seen people freeze sticks into their favorite holes. Others leave a dog bone behind before a big snowstorm, and they return with the family dog to find their holes when the storm passes. And then there’s the easy and more modern method, using a Global Position System (GPS) unit.

When I can drive out the truck later in winter and my black Lab Gracie makes the trip, the mission is to nearly wear out my right arm throwing sticks for her to retrieve. And at some point she chews a stick into tiny bits, another good way to mark your favorite fishing hole.

You can purchase a dedicated and fancier version of the GPS unit, or you can just purchase an inexpensive app for your smart phone. For like ten bucks, I downloaded Navionics into my iPhone and it does virtually everything a GPS unit can do.

In fact, I find the phone more user-friendly for marking locations and punching in coordinates. And my phone is always with me, so I can pull it out at a party or meeting when somebody starts talking about a nice catch of fish and they are willing to show you from where.

Fitness and winter sports go together because of the energy in takes to ski a trail, bushwhack on snowshoes, skate on ice or pull sleds back up the hill. If the northerns are biting, you can do a lot of running for tip-ups.

The point is, it isn’t so much what sport or sports you pick — just as long as you pick one. Doing nothing in winter is a surefire way to make winter seem like an eternity.

But beware. If you ever start enjoying winter, you will discover there are years when winter doesn’t last long enough. Imagine that.