If you have friends who ski, you’ve no doubt heard complaints about how “boring” snowshoeing is to them. Well-meaning friends will try to tell you that skiing is more exciting, that it’s easier, and that it’s faster on the way down. They’ll say that snowshoeing is just too much work tromping through the snow when you could be (should be) gliding. And I once believed all of that also.
Alas, it’s all myths! Snowshoeing is only boring if you’re doing it wrong. After all, hiking isn’t boring (at least I certainly don’t think it is) and neither is climbing mountains. Why would hiking in winter be boring just because you’ve added snow?
Perhaps we should stop comparing snowshoeing to skiing and embrace it for what it is – a different sport with its own rewards and appeal.
When Snowshoeing is Not Fun
The Wrong Way: Choose a groomed hard-packed trail and track set for skiers. Watch the skiers pass you and wonder to yourself, “Why am I going so slowly?” Get to a picnic bench or turn around spot and walk back down (while skiers zip past you yelling at you to get out of their way.)
The Wrong Way: Leave your sled at home. Why would you need a sled? You tell yourself that you are perfectly capable of carrying a backpack and the kids can walk too! A sled is just extra gear you’ll have to drag along.
The Wrong Way: Choose a trail with no particular scenery or objective. You won’t summit a ridge or mountain, you won’t reach a lake, and you won’t see anything other than trees. But that’s ok because this is good exercise, right?
How to Make Snowshoeing Exciting and Fun
Powder! Freshly fallen snow is the key to snowshoeing fun, especially if you get to break your own trail. Leave the hard-packed icy trails to ice cleats and the groomed cross-country ski trails to the skiers.
Bring a sled, crazy carpet, or some other slippery object. Why? So that you can slide back down to the car. Why walk when you can fly and glide down the trail? After all, walking down the hills is one of the big reasons why skiers think snowshoeing is boring.
A sled is especially important with children because you can motivate them to get to the lake, viewpoint, or day’s objective with a promise of a sled ride down. Continue further down for tips on how to use a sled when snowshoeing.
Choose a trail that is interesting and rewarding. Hike up to a ridge top or easy summit. Hike to a beautiful lake and play games on the ice (more games at the end of the story.) Or, even choose a trail that follows a creek with fun little bridges.
Be Fun! Whether with kids or not, games are an excellent way to stay entertained on the trail. If you are traveling with kids and they’re bored, perhaps it’s because you, Mom and Dad, are boring. Bring treats, play games, laugh, tell jokes and stories, be FUN. If you are having a good time, the kids will have a good time.
Tips for Snowshoeing with a Sled
- Attach your sled to your backpack for the ascent, bring a lightweight crazy carpet, or attach a long rope to the sled and pull it behind you.
- If you are going to be using a sled on the descent, it is recommended to bring a helmet for twisty steep terrain. You don’t want to fly into a tree and give yourself a concussion.
- If you have young kids riding in the sled and the trail is steep on the way down, always guide the sled ahead of you rather than pull it behind you. It will just hit you in the backside if you pull it. Guide it down first as you steer it with a long rope (see photo.)
Games to Play on Snowshoe Trips
- Hide and Seek – Play while moving forward in the direction you are hiking. For example, the kids must run up the trail before finding their next spot to hide. Watch the miles fly by.
- Horse Rides – The names we have given to pulling kids uphill with our hiking poles. Trust me, it works!
- Fun kids’ games such as Red Light Green Light, Duck Duck Goose, What time is it Mr. Wolf, or Simon Says. My favourite is “What time is it, Mr. Snowman?” (instead of Mr. Wolf) with variations such as it’s one bunny hop, two arctic seal slides, three penguin waddles, four polar bear crawls… – and the game can be played while hiking.
- Bring a soccer ball (or something similar that is perhaps not white) and play snow soccer
- Bring a small football and take turns throwing it up the trail. Keep playing in the direction you are hiking.
- Various games of tag, including pie tag – Build a big pizza pie in the snow, and the kids have to chase each other around the lines that mark the pie slices. Or make a big snow maze as in the photo below and run around it playing tag.
Other Ideas for Fun Trips with Kids
- Backcountry tobogganing and sledding – find a hill at your destination and have fun sliding on it.
- Make a snow quinzee or fort for the kids to play in
- Build a snowman, make snow angels, have a snowball fight
- As mentioned above, bring a sled or crazy carpet for the hike down
- Bring firewood in with your sled and hike to a backcountry campground with fire pits for a marshmallow roast
- Bring a Strider Balance Bike with ski attachment for preschoolers and toddlers on the way down (attach it to your backpack on the way up)
I welcome your comments so please let me know if I missed your favourite snowshoeing game or if you have other fun activities while you are out hiking in winter. I am always searching for that miracle game that will get my child another two miles down the trail.