words by Melody Forsyth
We discovered the amazing outdoors one summer several years ago. We hiked, played in the water and visited National Parks. It was a magical summer where we discovered that we love hiking. Then winter rolled around and I thought, “Now what?” What do we do now that it’s cold? I thought that we would have to put our adventures on hold for the season, when I heard that it is possible to hike in the winter!! (Hint…it’s called snowshoeing). I wanted to learn more about this. I didn’t want to lose the momentum we gained during the summer with being active outdoors and was looking for activities that we could do as a family in the snow and in the cold. I thought that skiing was the only option for winter activities and my family did not have those skills (yet!! read more about our first time skiing soon!). Is building snowmen our only option in the snow? It can be a fun activity and we certainly enjoy this, but I was hoping to find activities that would help us continue exploring.
With a little research and a lot of inspiration from pictures on social media, we learned that there are many activities families can do in the cold winter months. They don’t require a lot of skill and are guaranteed to create lasting memories. When doing any winter activities, we have learned that if you add hot cocoa to pretty much anything, you will get some smiles. Here are some of our favorite family-friendly winter outings.
Snowshoeing is basically hiking in the snow. Many trails that are great for summer hiking are also suitable for snowshoeing*. Snowshoes are designed to distribute a person’s weight over a larger area so that they don’t completely sink into the snow but actually walk on it. There is no guarantee that you won’t get any snow on your feet, so waterproof boots are still recommended as footwear with the snowshoes. Snowshoes are like hiking shoes in that they all function the same way but have a different design and you may prefer certain features and fit. If you want to start snowshoeing, local outfitters rent them for a day so that you can test them out and see if you enjoy the activity before making an investment. Thrift stores are a great place to find snowshoes, as well. They also make snowshoes for little children (and they are stinking adorable) so even small kids can participate and it’s something different so they are usually excited to try something new. You can snowshoe if you have babies/toddlers in child carriers, just be mindful of the extra weight you will be carrying when choosing a size of snowshoes.
*While many trails you have enjoyed during the summer months can be used for snowshoeing, please note that not all trails are appropriate. Obviously, most that are within bounds of ski resorts are closed to snowshoeing. Please always check with your state’s avalanche center for updates on the trails you are wanting to snowshoe on and be sure that it is safe. Many ski resorts have a Nordic center that has trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing and don’t charge a lot to use these trails for the day. This is a great way to try some trails that are safe and the fee often includes rental gear. Discover some of our favorite snowshoeing trails here
Tubing and sledding are probably the most fun winter activities for my children. What’s not to love about zipping down a hill, spinning around and catching a little air? I can honestly admit, that even as an adult, it is a blast. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a sled or tube either. I have even seen some fun inner-tubes in the shapes of swans, dinosaurs and unicorns and this certainly adds an element of fun. Of course, some sleds and tubes can be found at a higher price point with the quality, speed and longevity probably better than cheaper versions. It should not deter you from using what you have and making some amazing memories with your kids. There are places you can purchase tickets to go tubing and they include tube rentals where they do the uphill work for you. There are also many hills in local parks, spots in national forests and public lands that also have hills that are amazing for tubing and sledding and are accessible and available to everyone. We love going to these places. It makes for an amazing day at no cost, once you have the equipment. Don’t forget to wear your pedometer to see how many steps you take for a few hours of tubing. What goes down must come back up and if your kids are like mine, many times you end up pulling them up the hill, so it becomes quite the workout for you. Here's a great resource for tubing and sledding hills in Utah
You don’t have to be an Olympic figure skater to get on the ice and try ice skating. We tried this for the very first time this winter and had a great time. There are professional size ice rinks that you can visit that include skate rentals. There is a moderate cost for this kind of ice skating rink. We discovered that there are several smaller outdoor rinks that are usually locally owned and much less expensive. Our entire family was able to go ice skating for $28, skate rentals included and was run by the local parks department. I had gone ice skating several times growing up and was worried that I would not remember how, but luckily, it’s much like riding a bike, in that the skill quickly comes back to you. They also had ice walkers that you can rent for an additional cost. These work like regular walkers but glide across the ice to help with balance. They are great for beginners and those who have never used skates before. One of my children started with the walker, but wasn’t using it by the end of the session because he was able to skate on his own. There were a lot of cheers and words of encouragement to everyone in the family when we finished and everyone was proud of their balance and willingness to learn something new.
If you have the chance to visit a hot spring, you definitely should. It is such a fun experience to hike/snowshoe to some hot springs and have a soak. Even if no hike is required, wearing bathing suits and getting in hot water (always check temperatures before getting in) is a hit with the kids. Be prepared with towels and a change of clothes because you don’t want to hike or drive back in wet and cold clothes. Some hot springs are built up and maintained by private owners, while others are in tucked-away locations, primitive springs and opened to anyone. If you are taking your children, be advised that at some locations, people like to enter the springs without clothes (although many places have rules against this) so you might need to check it out first. No matter where you go, please observe the rules of the springs and be sure to pack out all your belongings and trash.
No matter what you do during the winter, don’t let the cold slow your adventures down. Keep the exploring and memory-making going all year round. And, spoiler alert, our family got out on skis this year! Check out our first time on skis (COMING SOON!).
Learn more about Melody and her family's outdoor adventures on Instagram @downwithadventure.