I only have one rule about snow – if I have to shovel it then I want to play in it. It’s quite a simple rule really. Considering the fact that I am an absolutely terrible skier, I’m not a huge fan of skating on really bumpy ice, I’m not cool enough to snowboard, and the small kamikaze warriors on the toboggan hills terrify me, it’s no surprise that my outdoor winter activity of choice is snowshoeing.
There are a several things I find appealing about snowshoeing. First and foremost you can go just about anywhere there is snow. You don’t have to follow a trail and so you don’t have to go anywhere where there are other people. I love the solitude of the woods where there is nothing but you, the animal tracks and the occasional deer poop. It took quite a bit to convince the kids that those tiny little balls did in fact come out of a deer by the way.
I also love that it is an activity the whole family can enjoy. We started taking the kids when they were three and five years old. That year we only lasted about 20 minutes but we went out expecting a short outing, and with the intention just to get them comfortable with the activity. I think setting realistic expectations, especially when trying something for the first time, goes a long way towards creating a positive experience for everyone. Of course the fact that I dangled the carrot of hot chocolate with marshmallows in my backpack helped that first time.
The kids are now seven and five and the first time we went out this year we lasted an hour in quite deep snow. They did much better than I expected despite falling multiple times and battling gale force winds on the way back. Amazingly no one complained. In fact the younger one wanted to keep going but his sister had a cold and wasn’t at 100% so she had had enough.
A Great Investment
Snowshoeing is also relatively affordable. Our kids’ snowshoes cost about $75 a pair (sales can often be found at the end of the season for ever better prices). The best thing though, is that unlike ski boots that have to be replaced every year for growing children, snowshoes will last for many years. Our kids’ snowshoes are good until they weigh over 70lbs, which in the end will probably amount to about four or five seasons. That turns out to be about $13 per year, which is quite a bargain for kids’ sports equipment if you ask me. As for the adults, a decent pair of snowshoes should last you a lifetime.
If you are looking for a really fun way to stay fit, snowshoeing definitely fits the bill. Did you know that you can burn up to 1000 calories an hour snowshoeing? If you use poles and attack hilly terrain with deep powder snow, you can really burn it. Okay, maybe leave the kids at home for that outing.
Feel the Burn!
“Snowshoeing is the best bang-for-your-buck, fat-burning workout in winter,” according to Dr. Ray Browning of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado’s Health Science Center and Vail Mountain Man champion. “It’s an exceptional way to achieve cardiovascular fitness, expend energy and reduce your chance of heart disease; plus it’s low cost, easily mastered and fun.”
Snowshoeing uses all the major muscle groups in the legs, and if you use poles it also uses the big muscles in the upper body. When we go as a family, whoever is breaking trail for the kids is definitely getting a workout. Last time we went I was in the front facing knee-deep snow. I was already working hard to break trail when this little voice behind me said, “Mommy your steps are too big”. I turned around to find the seven year old trying to literally follow in my footsteps. Oops. So I had to break trail taking tiny little steps, which was four times as much work. Believe me, I was sweating in no time.
For the Young at Heart
That’s part of the beauty of this activity. It is the one thing we can do as a family where the adults can get a workout and the kids can still keep up. It is also low impact as the snow cushions your footfall, and the benefits of being out in nature are numerous. I feel an immediate sense of calm when I enter the woods. In addition, it is a very safe activity with quite a low risk of injury. Okay, I fell over last time but that’s a long story. No harm done since I landed in three feet of powdery snow. Well, getting up was a whole different thing but I had a good laugh.
If you are looking for a fun, affordable, and safe way to enjoy some snow time, try out snowshoeing. Your heart will thank you for it. See you in the woods sometime! Just follow the trail of hot chocolate dribbles and you’ll find us.