Do you hear that? It's the call of the outdoors. As winter sets in and the air turns brisk, it only grows stronger. Activities like snowshoeing, sledding, skiing, snowboarding, and, yes, even scouting for the perfect Christmas tree draw us from the warmth of our houses and out into nature.

Come late fall, Green Bluff up north of Mead is a regular destination for many folks as they stock up on the final harvest of local apples, buy a few gallons of fresh-pressed cider or pick out a Halloween pumpkin. And just a few weeks later, they're back at this cluster of rural family farms to ring in the yuletide season. At DIETZ CHRISTMAS TREES, the hunt for your holiday centerpiece begins the day after Thanksgiving. Hand saws and hot chocolate are typically provided free of charge.

Down the road, GREEN BLUFF CHRISTMAS TREE FARM has several fir and spruce varieties ranging from 5 to 20 feet in size. There are also pre-cut trees if you're pressed for time or simply want a more convenient option.

For those who plan to participate in more active winter sports, it's a good idea to gear up — and do it early. As the manager of SHRED SPORTS OUTLET on North Division, Chad Ohman has seen a newfound appreciation for the open air on account of COVID-19 restrictions.

"Outdoor recreation has been really, really booming," he says. "We're busier right now than we normally are. It's a really cool surge in interest that we're seeing, but it also means that it's definitely going to be one of those seasons where there's very little left in stores later on."

According to Ohman, some of this year's must-have accessories are Oakley's new goggles with PRIZM lens technology: "They add a dye to the polycarbonate to create a deeper contrast. It keeps you from having to change out lenses under different lighting conditions." Another is FastStik, a rub-on ski and snowboard wax that is "crazy fast" and has been wowing customers with its results.

SPOKANE ALPINE HAUS on the South Hill is a longtime favorite among locals who are looking for the perfect winter gear. Along with a wide inventory of clothing and equipment for purchase, there are rental and lease options. They can really help offset the costs of a single trip to the slopes or kids who quickly outgrow their boots and skis.

If camping, ice fishing, snowshoeing, sledding or hunting are more your thing, it's worth checking out THE GENERAL STORE on North Division. This Spokane institution has an extensive selection of specialist gear as well as many staff members who also happen to be avid outdoor types. They can not only advise you on the right equipment but also offer some handy insider tips.