Snowshoeing is the ultimate winter crowd pleaser. Rent some snowshoes for your friends and you’re good to go for an easy fun day playing in the snow.
Don’t believe me that snowshoeing is a fun way to plan a day out with your friends? Keep reading:
Six Reasons Snowshoeing is the Ultimate Winter Crowd Pleaser
1. Snowshoeing requires little to no skill. If you can walk, you can snowshoe. On the flip side, you can’t just grab a group of friends and take them skiing for the day without a lesson or some training.
2. Snowshoeing doesn’t have to require a great level of fitness. Choose a flat trail, ideally well packed down, and you’ll be able to bring all your friends (and even their kids) with you.
3. Snowshoeing is a sport all ages can enjoy. My mother goes snowshoeing every week with her seniors’ outdoor group. They choose easy trails and they happily get outside all winter long without worrying about falling, losing their balance, or having to be coordinated on a pair of slippery skis.
4. Snowshoeing is a fun family sport! Bring sleds, have a snowball fight, stop to build a snow fort at your destination, take turns playing snow-a-lanche (think avalanche while knocking snow off the trees on one another,) and bring lots of yummy hot chocolate. Snowshoeing is all about playing in the snow for kids, so don’t forget to make at least one snow angel too.
5. Snowshoeing allows you to hike year-round. For many young people in the Canadian Rockies, cross-country skiing isn’t something they were raised with. Hiking on the other hand is very popular here with millennials and what I like to call “the Instagram generation.” A pair of snowshoes is a cheap investment with a great reward of being able to continue hiking through the winter months.
6. It’s affordable! Buy the snowshoes and you’re done. No lift tickets and no additional boots to pair with skis, and you also won’t have to buy new gear for children who are constantly growing. Most kids will be able to use the same snowshoes for many years (with their regular winter boots).
How to Plan a Group Snowshoeing Day with your Friends
First, let’s assume your friends don’t regularly go snowshoeing and will need to rent gear. You can either go snowshoeing at a Nordic centre where they have rentals on site (though you may have to pay trail fees), or you can just rent in the city before heading out. This is usually the cheapest option and many places let you pick your gear up the night before so you’re good to go the next day.
Another favourite method of mine for outfitting friends with gear is to borrow from other friends. Chances are there’s somebody not able to come along, but who has snowshoes you could borrow.
Dressing The Part Of A Winter Hiker
Second, give your friends a list of what they should be wearing in order to stay warm and comfortable. Chances are they won’t have any fancy technical gear, but hopefully they have a pair of snow pants and a warm winter jacket.
While it would be ideal for everybody to be wearing base layers and non-cotton winter clothing, a simple pair of fleece pants and a fleece sweatshirt will work in a pinch under their snow pants and jacket. (Especially if you aren’t doing a long hike.)
Make sure everybody is bringing good waterproof gloves or mittens and a warm hat for their head. A scarf or tubular wrap (like a Buff) to wear over their face is also advised if it’s going to be cold.
Finally, encourage your friends to wear the warmest winter boots they have. Think bulky Sorel type boots and not city fashion boots with a heel! And stress good warm socks. Ideally, socks that are smart wool or something that is not cotton would be best.
If they enjoy other winter sports (downhill skiing for example) chances are they have clothing that will work, even if it doesn’t look as high tech as what most people are wearing on the trails.
Packing Your Bags
I’ll never forget the year we took a bunch of newbie outdoor friends into a backcountry hut for a weekend (with zero guidance on what to pack). Once we got there, let’s just say their backpacks were incredibly heavy (with items they didn’t need) but were lacking in some of the important stuff.
Below is a short list of some of the basics you’ll all want to pack.
- Hand and foot warmers, which could be something you pack in case your friends need them
- A first aid kit (at least one per group) and any other emergency gear you’d normally pack for a day hike (headlamps for example if you get a late start)
- Bear spray, depending on where you live- It’s never a bad idea to have at least one can per group, especially early season
- Lunch, snacks, a hot drink in a thermos and warm drinking water that will cool down to the right temperature quite quickly
- Spare mitts, socks, and a hat – in case you get wet (again, something you the leader could pack extras of)
- Sunglasses (and sunblock if the sun is strong and it’s a bright day – important for spring snowshoeing especially)
- A map or clear directions (even a photo of your route on a cell phone can be helpful – as long as your phone doesn’t freeze)
Choosing The Trail
If your friends don’t normally make a habit of tromping around in the snowy wilderness, make sure you take it easy on them and don’t choose a mountain summit as your destination. Pick a relatively flat trail. For example, a maximum of 1000 feet of height gain is recommended if your friends are fit and do a lot of walking.
I also recommend halving the distance you’d normally choose for a summer hike. 5 Miles is the most you’d likely want to tackle round trip.
Finally, scenery usually matters for people that don’t hike a lot. Choose a scenic mountain lake as your destination or a beautiful viewpoint. Alternately, some forests can be especially scenic and breathtaking when they look like a winter wonderland. I’m partial to snow covered bridges.
Making It FUN
Below are a few suggestions for ways to make your hike fun:
- Be playful! Encourage your friends to have a snowball fight. Shower snow on your friends from trees you pass under (and encourage retaliation), and stop to make snow angels.
- Bring sleds or crazy carpets (especially if you have children). It can be a great way to descend the trail after reaching your destination. And I always suggest helmets if you think you’ll be coming down a twisty windy luge track
- Bring candy (yes, even for adults,) hot chocolate (perhaps with some added Baileys for the adults,) and other fun treats
- Keep the pace relaxed. Stop to take lots of photos, to play in the snow, and to enjoy the scenery.
The All Important Après-Snowshoe Activity
We have favourite coffee shops and pubs that we love to visit after spending a day hiking in the mountains. Sometimes I think this is the real highlight of the day and the reward that you work for.
Introduce your friends to your favorite watering hole, that awesome coffee shop you’ve discovered, or choose a new place together. And I can assure you even children look forward to a treat at the end of an adventure.
In addition, other fun après-snowshoe activities (especially if your hike is short) could include ice-skating, sledding, or even shopping in a local mountain town if you’re out with your girlfriends for the day.