During an ordinary autumn, my inbox fills up with anticipatory emails from ski resorts designed to get us excited about the coming winter.
This year, my email inbox is full of long letters from resort presidents and CEOís explaining what the ski season will look like, and how operations will change, because of COVID-19.
Are my family and I still excited about the coming winter? Yes, we are!
But we are also making plans for alternate winter fun.
Five Fun Ways to Enjoy Winter
While many of us tend to be skiing and snowboarding-obsessed, the reality is that winter comes in many flavors and the opportunities to have fun outside are numerous.
1. Cross-Country or Nordic Skiing:
There are two types of nordic skiing: classic and skate. Classic skiing is traditional two-track skiing on groomed or ungroomed trails. Think of it as a combination of walking and sliding. Skate skiing is faster and requires a wide groomed track. It is truly skating on skis. Both varieties require specialized gear and both deliver a fantastic workout, along with a beautiful day on snow.
Cross-country skiing is made for families, as even babies can go along for the ride. Whether carried in a pack or pulled on a sled, dress your children warmly. Youíll be building up heat, they will not. For young kids ages four and up, start with classic skiing and keep the experience short and fun. Help them get used to sliding and be sure to bring a thermos of hot chocolate and snacks.
Compared to nordic skiing, snowshoeing can take you into more varied terrain, with less investment in equipment. Because youíre basically hiking on snow, itís very easy to learn and itís much easier to go uphill than on nordic skis. Bring ski poles to keep your balance and provide leverage on steeper terrain. Youíll also need warm, insulated boots, gaiters to protect your ankles and feet from snow, and snowshoes!
Practice snowshoeing with your family in your yard or garden, or on any flat area thatís snow covered. Once your child is comfortable walking on the snowshoes, try a short, rolling trail. Avoid cross-country ski trails, as snowshoes damage the tracks.
One of the newest entries in the world of winter fun, fat biking uses a mountain bike-type frame and equips it with knobby, balloon tires that are perfect for riding on snow. Because the tires are wide, the ride is cushioned and they are easy to balance on, especially for kids.
Biking is one of lifeís simple joys and always fun for families. Fat bikes come in kids sizes, for the littlest riders. Choose snow-covered gravel paths for the most fun for all ages.
4. Backcountry Skiing and Snowboarding:
Backcountry snowsports offer a potent combination of endorphin-building climbing and euphoria-producing descents. And right now, backcountry, or touring, gear is flying off the shelves. Rather than relying on resorts to deliver their snowsports fix, many skiers and snowboarders are planning to ski or ride in the backcountry where there will be fewer public health restrictions.
The backcountry is not appropriate for young children. Because backcountry skiing and snowboarding have more inherent risks than resort snowsports, every member of the family should pass Avalanche Safety Training courses before heading out. Each person should carry all recommended safety and search and rescue gear and know how to use it. Most importantly never head into the backcountry without checking the avalanche condition report. Have fun, but stay safe.
5. Sledding and Tubing:
When it comes to pure, simple winter fun, nothing beats sledding and tubing. While tubing is often done at ski resorts on long, rolling runs, sledding can be done anywhere you have a slope and snow. For safety, choose hills with long runout and no obstacles at the bottom. Be sure to tie a rope handle to the sled to make it easier to pull back uphill.
Pro Tip: Sleds come in all shapes and sizes. While itís tempting to purchase inexpensive plastic models, they break more easily. Our favorite family sled is a wooden sled that has a plastic base instead of sharp runners. Itís sturdy, fun, has room for two people and because it weighs a bit more, offers long, fast descents.
These are just five fun ways for families to enjoy the coldest and (arguably) most fun of the four seasons. There are plenty of other fun things to do including snowmobiling, building snow forts and snowmen, and playing many, many outdoor snowy games (search online, youíll be amazed!).
Whatever you do this winter with your family, have fun.
And enjoy every snowy moment!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Hailing from Colorado (USA) Kristen Lummis, or as she is better known, the Brave Ski Mom, is an avid skier and true family mum in every sense of the word. www.braveskimom.com