Sweating in a Winter Wonderland

If your elementary school P.E. class memories are anything like mine, you remember the long winter months spent in the gymnasium.

Lined up in your squads, attendance taken, waiting to jump rope, play basketball, dodgeball, or indoor kickball with the snow undoubtedly falling outside mocking your winter exile. How much fun would it have been to bundle up and frolic with a good pair of snowshoes, the crunch of powder replacing the squeaking of sneakers?

One of the goals of the Winter Feels Good (WFG) program is to make this fantasy a reality in schools across the country. With funds for physical education dwindling over the past few decades, the folks at WFG saw a need to tear youngsters away from their X-Boxes and PS2s and see what winter sports have to offer.

It’s not news to anyone that obesity in America is at an all-time high and getting kids to exercise in any capacity is a plus. It follows logically that when the weather turns chilly, motivating kids can be an even greater challenge. Teaming up with the United States Ski and Snowboard Association and the President’s Challenge Awards to name just two of the organizations on board, WFG is gaining momentum.

Beginning with education, WFG teaches kids how to dress for the winter weather, emphasizing wearing layers as well as the importance of sunscreen, sunglasses and proper hydration. The raw data on the health benefits of skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing are also a key selling point (and of course snowshoeing leads the way with 378 calories burned per hour).

Next on the agenda is getting people out to any number of programs already in existence. Winter Trails Day is a crucial teammate of WFG, offering guided trail hikes, winter safety presentations, and expert advice on the fitting and selection of snowshoes. Programs are available from Vermont to Washington all season long, and you can find out more by visiting http://www.winterfeelsgood.com.

The President’s Challenge Award is an exciting and achievable goal that incorporates all of the aforementioned snowsports and a simple four step criteria: Choose an activity, set an activity goal, use the online activity log to keep track of your progress and eventually, earn an award. More information is also available at http://www.presidentschallenge.org.

The physical benefits are only the most obvious of outdoor winter sports positives. A recent California Department of Education study showed that higher levels of fitness directly correlated with improved academic performance in math and reading for fifth, seventh and ninth graders.

WFG is especially exciting to snowshoe enthusiasts in that snowshoeing is perceived as a natural first step. Requiring little skill and being relatively inexpensive, snowshoes and a little mother nature are all it takes to get going. The people at WFG know that if they can get the wheels turning, exploring all of what the winter sports have to offer is merely a baby step away.

About the author


Marcus Wilkins