Last Updated on January 9, 2022
Snowshoeing is one of the best outdoor winter activities with kids. Snowshoeing is a great workout, and a fun way to stay active. Most of the time you will be having such a fun time together, that you will not even realize just how good of a workout it is. Unless you have a toddler on your back, then it is always leg day!
Snowshoeing is easy to learn, a more affordable winter option for the family, and it is a fun way to spend quality time together. It is one of the first winter activities we suggest for families that want to do more than sledding and find out how much they like adventuring in the snow.
Plus, if you can walk, you can snowshoe. There is no easier winter sport to learn.
Living in Vancouver, we are lucky to have so many mountain resorts and trail options so close by for snowshoe adventures. You can go from city to snow in 30 minutes. Cypress Mountain, Seymour Mountain, and Grouse Mountain are all popular options. If you’re willing to go for a bit of a drive, Squamish and even further the resort town of Whistler is another excellent hot spot for winter recreation and are only (at most) a couple of hours outside of Vancouver.
Snowshoeing is also an excellent sport to start kids young. Our kids started snowshoeing at three years old, and before that started in a carrier on my back. Next season we will have four snowshoers! Even snowshoeing with babies or snowshoeing with toddlers is a great experience. It gets easier as they get older, but at the end of the day, snowshoeing with your kids is an adventurous way to create some fond memories for everyone.
What Is Snowshoeing?
Snowshoeing is hiking, with a fancy attachment to your boots. Snowshoes allow you to “float” on top of the snow, by using a wide frame to distribute your weight over a larger area, so you are not sinking deep into the snow while trying to walk.
Six-thousand years ago, snowshoeing was used as a mode of transportation in extreme conditions, such as for survival in the remote mountains for trappers and traders traversing the otherwise unreachable wilderness. Today, it is a fun recreational activity that lets you wander through dreamy winter wonderlands. Snowshoeing is one of the fastest-growing winter hobbies.
Talk About It!
The best way to prepare kids for an experience is to discuss it beforehand. Talk about how much fun it is and the area where you are going to explore. You know your kids best, and that will help you give just the right amount of excitement to get them pumped for the adventure.
Prepare The Night Before
One or two nights before heading out, I get out the snowshoes and let my kids check them out. Seeing the snowshoes helps to get them excited. It is a great way to give them a visual of what is happening the next day. Also, bringing them out early is a great chance to have them put on their boots and make sure the snowshoe bindings are set correctly; it will save time and whining when all you want to do is get started on the adventure.
Keep Them Comfortable
We are firm believers that there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. In the case of cold weather, make sure you have enough layers. There is nothing wrong with having to stop to take off a layer if you are too hot; that is much better than the alternative of being too cold and putting yourself in danger.
Since snowshoeing has you “floating” on top of the snow, kids will stay mostly dry, unless they start rolling around and making snow angels (which is to be expected, too!). Once they get moving, they will start to warm up again quickly. Most of the time when we snowshoe the kids are unzipping their jackets and remove a layer soon after starting. Staying warm, and not overheating are both equally important.
Kids lose body heat faster than adults, so they must also be dressed in layers. It is best to have a lighter wicking base layer on against the skin, then an insulation layer, followed by wind protection. Double-check that their socks are pulled right up, the wrists of the mittens are tucked into their jackets, and the internal gaiters of the snow pants are pulled over their boots to keep the snow from getting in.
Keep in mind that if you are baby-carrying, or have a toddler on your back, the littles are not generating the same body heat that you are by moving around. Dress them extra warm so they will be comfortable.
We also recommend bringing an extra pair of gloves each and hand warmers. Especially for the littlest ones who are being carried, hand warmers come in handy to help them stay warm on longer snowshoeing adventures.
I am so gung-ho about finding the best and most epic family adventures, that we sometimes forget that everyone starts at the beginning. Starting small is important. When we first started snowshoeing with the kids, we started small. If you have snow at sea level, you can practice outside before you hit the mountains. If you do not have snow outside your front door, grass works for some practice too! Also, start with well-marked and well-traveled trails. Mountain resorts usually have some paid snowshoe trails that are within safe boundaries (no avalanche risk).
One of the best skills to practice is making u-turns in your snowshoes; you cannot go in reverse without falling over. Snowshoes are designed to move forward, not backward.
If you are like me and always set big goals, do not be afraid to reassess the situation and make changes along the way. Always have a plan A, B, and C.
As with any activity, if your child has fun, they will want to go again. We treat snowshoeing like any other hike we would do during the summer. Snowshoeing is hiking, with fancy shoes on. We take time to stop and play in the snow, games like “Walk like a…” always bring a ton of laughter, or something as simple as singing songs.
One of the best ways to build curiosity and confidence outdoors is to let the kids lead as we follow behind. We love watching how proud they are as they find the trail markers and navigate our way.
Finish With Hot Chocolate
Some days you will find that some bribes are needed to keep the kids trekking along. Do not feel guilty about it; it can help keep your kids active and that is the end goal. We always tell families to expect adventures to take longer than planned, and to bring copious amounts of snacks.
After a good snowshoe adventure, we love to warm up with a hot chocolate with marshmallows.
What Snowshoes To Buy?
Determining the size of snowshoes to buy is super simple. Snowshoe size is determined by the total weight that the snowshoe will carry. This includes the person and any gear being carried.
The snowshoe bindings will work with any type of shoe, but sturdy, waterproof hiking or snow boots are best. You will want to choose a lightweight option that provides good ankle flex.
If you would rather try snowshoeing before buying a pair, several sports stores rent for a day or weekend. If you’re heading up to a resort, you can also rent snowshoes directly from them, but typically the snowshoes cannot go off their paid trails.
If you consider the cost of renting snowshoes every time, and if you find that you enjoyed your experience snowshoeing, it is way more cost-effective to buy your own.
Just as you would share trails with others during the summer months, there are also guidelines to help keep everyone safe and happy during the winter, regardless of how they are moving down the trail:
- If you share a trail with cross country skiers, do not step on the ski tracks. The snowshoe crampons can destroy a trail that is especially groomed for cross-country skiing. If you must snowshoe on the trail, stick to the far-left side, away from the tracks.
- Snowmobiles go fast. Always yield to them.
- If you are slower than those approaching behind you or need to stop for a moment, move to the side or off the trail so that you are not in the way.
- Yield to the uphill snowshoer.
- If you are on a narrow trail, snowshoe single file so that others may pass.
Avalanche dangers when adventuring in the snow are serious. Always follow guidelines by Avalanche Canada (or the backcountry resource in your corner of the world), and check park trail reports before heading out.
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