Dylan, eight, Leah, six, and Ryan Zwicker, three, head out for a family snowshoe adventure with the neighbour’s dog Mugsy. - Submitted
“I take breaks and have snacks sitting in the snow. It's funny when snow flicks up from the back of your snowshoes and hits you in the head.”
Maddox Levy, eight, of Cambridge, is describing the perfect outdoor adventure for kids that combines activity, fun, adventure and snacks. Snowshoeing is becoming increasingly popular as a family outdoor pastime.
“Snowshoeing is easy to learn,” says Kathy Aldous, active living co-ordinator for the Municipality of West Hants. “The best approach is simply to get out and try it.”
Children as young as four can start to snowshoe.
“I'm always looking for ways to trick my kids (and myself) to get outdoors and get active,” says Mike Caplan of Kentville, who started snowshoeing with his three kids this winter. “I really enjoy the social experience of hiking with the family. Snowshoeing is an extension of that.”
Sometimes children think that snowshoeing is too much work.
“We have to show them it can be a fun family activity,” explains Brian Orde, recreation programs and projects assistant for the County of Annapolis.
Start by having the proper equipment. Most snowshoes are labelled with a suggested weight class.
“Make sure they are on tightly the first time. If they keep falling off, children will get annoyed and want to stop,” says Orde.
“Poles or walking sticks are helpful as it can be hard getting back up with snowshoes on your feet,” says Tascha Levy.
But be careful - as a mom of three snowshoers, Wendy Zwicker from Port Williams warns that poles can also turn into weapons!
If you’re not ready to invest in a new pair of snowshoes, hunt around for a second-hand pair like Caplan did, or borrow some from your local recreation department.
Dress a little lighter than what you would expect.
“It might be cold to start but you'll warm up quickly,” says Levy. Don’t forget sunscreen and sunglasses.
“Keep your outings short and action packed,” says Ryan Lindh, who runs snowshoe workshops for all ages through Trailflow. “Play games, make snow forts, and just let kids be kids!”
Zwicker suggests ensuring there is something exciting during the trip, whether it is sledding at the destination or the promise of a warm drink once home.
Make it more than just about snowshoeing! Levy recommends researching winter foliage and animal tracks, bringing along spray bottles filled with food coloring for dying the snow, or having a snowball fight! Include a scavenger hunt and perhaps a race to the finish.
Start off with short trails – or even just stomp around your backyard or on a soccer field.
“Don't aim to go far!” says Levy. “A kilometre in the snow can take a lot longer.”
Gradually make it more interesting.
“The scenery and obstacles are key to keeping kids happy,” says Caplan.
To start, however, Lindh recommends people snowshoe a trail they know well from being there in the summer. “It can be easy to get lost in the snow if you don't know the area well.”
“Take along hot chocolate and cookies and promise little snack breaks,” suggests Orde.
Eight-year-old Dylan Zwicker agrees. “Snowshoeing is fun because when we come home, we get warm apple juice and cinnamon.”
Consider signing up for Trailflow’s snowshoeing workshops (there is one for youth, teens and adults) or go on guided snowshoe hikes being offered through the West Hants and Annapolis County recreation departments.
“Snowshoeing is fun,” says 12-year-old Max Caplan. “And, it’s good exercise. Kids should definitely try it out.”
But, be forewarned!
“The ongoing challenge is making sure that the kids don't catch on that this exercise,” jokes Mike Caplan. “Once they clue into that, the whining begins!”
Laura Churchill Duke, Valley Family Fun, has her boys snowshoe in the yard. Inspired by this article, they plan to borrow some snowshoes from Kentville Recreation for their next family outing!