When you have wee ones, finding a family activity where everyone can participate can be a smidge challenging. You have to take into account athleticism, lessons, height restrictions, and of course how crazy expensive things can get. Both Dom and I love winter sports but goodness, sometimes the bill can be enough to give anyone a heart attack. Take for example something as simple as snow tubing. This past weekend we went to Big Bear, California in hopes of tubing. I had done our due diligence and called to clarify the height restrictions posted on the website. Surely if Penny is tall enough to ski, she’s tall enough to ride in a tube down a snowy incline with an adult, yes? The friendly voice on the phone promised us that oh yes! A three-year-old would be able to ride no problem. Whelp, that actually wasn’t the case upon arriving. Not to mention that it was $35/person to ride! Yikes!!!
Then there’s downhill skiing, one of our favorite things to do during the winter. There is nothing like gliding through deep powder high up in the mountains for one to feel alive. Dom and I most definitely want our kids to become good skiers, but there is a huge cost that’s associated with that goal, particularly when your kids are really young! Even with staying + eating for free at the Hilton Niseko Village in Hokkaido, Japan (we’ll have a whole post coming on that soon), the vacay was still a pricey one between ski rentals + lift tickets + ski lessons for Miles, and the kids’ club for Penny. It all adds up really quickly.
As your kids get older and become more proficient at skiing they can come with you, but until that time you are stuck dropping big $$ on ski school/daycare or are relegated to the bunny slopes. We have a huge problem paying someone else to babysit the kids when we try to be all about spending time together.
So here we are, stuck in this predicament of how to enjoy the snowy winter wonderland, spend time with our most precious gifts, get a good workout in, and yet not break the bank. Enter snowshoeing. Read on to find out why we love it so much, and to find out what you need for your own family snow shoe adventure.
1. If you can walk, you can snowshoe.
Unlike skiing or snow boarding, there is a much shallower learning curve when strapping on snow shoes. As long as you can walk, you should be just fine with snow shoes. Yes, you have to adjust your stride a bit wider and there is a little balance required in deep snow, but it is nothing like skiing. Moreover, it’s not nearly as intimidating because the perceived risk is so much smaller. No need to worry about bindings or boots or din settings. Here are the steps…1. strap them onto your snow boots. 2. Have a good time. Similarly, there is no need to worry about expensive ski lessons for Miles (although to be honest he’s getting good and close to passing up his ol’ momma) or Penny into kids’ club, we just drive to the trail and get on it.
This works the other way as well. If you have someone with you who is worried about injuries that may occur with downhill skiing, take them snow shoeing! It’s low impact, very safe, and places very little stress on any arthritic joints that may need a little TLC.
2. The solitude and conversation.
Okay for real, I’m not gonna go on a diatribe here about how quiet our kiddos are and that when they’re in nature they just chill and take it all in. They are just as crazy then as they are at any other time. However, there is something about winter in the forest that makes you want to get off the beaten path. Instead of waiting in line at the ski lift, the majority of our time is spent enjoying the experience as a family. Taking the trail less traveled here yields a quieter experience even if you have your boisterous companions in tow.
Like it is when going for a walk, conversation is easier when everyone is doing the same activity at the same pace. Getting away from the crowd helps us foster a tight family dynamic that we hope to carry forward as our kids increasingly gain their independence. As our kids grow and change we find it important to find time that is uninterrupted to sit down and chat. We want the door to always be open and for them to find us approachable with any and all things. We’ve found that the door is easier to open when doing an activity rather than sitting across a table from each other.
3. A fit family is a happy family.
As a working couple (yup, we both have full-time jobs) Dom and I don’t always have the perfect opportunity to work out every day. However, personal wellness is one of the most important aspects of our lives, as we hope to NOT have full time jobs for any longer than is necessary. When that happens, we want to be healthy and strong enough to tackle pretty much anything that strikes our fancy. Consequently, we try to make it a priority for our adventures to be as active as possible. We hope this also teaches Miles and Penny the joy of exercise, the happiness of feeling your heat beat inside your chest, and the satisfaction in experiencing something that most people don’t take time to experience. Active doesn’t have to mean lacing up your kicks and pushing the jogging stroller for an hour. Snowshoeing is a killer way to burn off the calories and also get to experience something new.
4. It’s perfect for family bonding.
There is just something about being out in the middle of a forest trucking through feet of snow. It’s like you’re in the middle of nowhere, but at the same time you are exactly where you need to be. No one is gliding too far down the slopes in front of the rest the family, no one is on their phone, no one is asking to watch T.V.. Everyone is together and no one has an excuse not to be. Enough said.
5. Compared to nearly any alternative, it’s fairly inexpensive.
Snowshoeing is cheap, and you really don’t need to have a ton of equipment. A good pair of snowshoes can be had for under $100. Other than that, you’ll need some warm, water proof shoes, some ski pants, and potentially some poles (although these are kind of optional). See below for links to our stuff. Nearly always, the trails are free access, and you won’t have to worry about lift tickets, ski school, day care or anything else. Occasionally trails will have usage fees, but these pale in comparison to crazy lift tickets. Not sure if it will be your cup of tea? Most outdoor areas will rent snowshoes for $20-30/day. We rented some in King’s Canyon National Park and had so much fun within the first hour of trekking to General Grant, that we knew we were gonna have get our own.
6. The necessary gear is very portable.
We don’t own a big or fancy car and have no desire to. Our wagon gets near 50mpg, but it can fill up fairly quickly on trips where we have to bring a lot of gear. Consequently, we have to be fairly purposeful when we pack. This is probably why it took us months to finally pull the trigger on a sled for the kids – it just seemed bulky and we weren’t sure how often we were actually going to use it. Fortunately, snow shoes take up very little extra room. We’ve been known to throw them in the car even if we are not sure there will be enough snow for them or not…when they are so small its no big deal if they end up sitting in the car for the entire weekend.
7. Snowshoeing makes the winter forest accessible.
You wanna go up to the top of a mountain and there isn’t a fancy trail paving the way? Well, what are you waiting for? GO! With snowshoes you’re afforded the opportunity to go to places that aren’t as easy to access without something helping you spread out your weight. With deep snow cover, you can simply walk right over obstacles that would give you pause during the winter months. While moving through deep snow still takes a fair amount of energy, snow shoes definitely make it way more manageable. While most people are at home complaining that it’s too cold or icy, you can be out spending time in nature, seeing it as very few take the time and energy to. Trust us, it’s well worth it!
Convinced? Getting started is actually VERY easy, we’ve listed some links to some of our favorite snowshoe gear below:
Best beginner Snowshoes: MSR Evo
Best overall/climbing Showshoes: MSR Lightning Ascent
Best Kids Snowshoes: MSR Swift
Winter Boots: Sorel Caribou (Womens or Mens)
Full disclosure we act as an affiliate for several sites, so clicking through and purchasing products via our links does make us a little money and allows us to continue to put out (hopefully) useful content.