Don’t let chilly weather keep you indoors; get outside and enjoy one or more of these frosty activities.
By Lisa Cordeiro
Whether you’re living in your motorhome or your stationary home this winter, it’s tempting to stay inside. Who wants to venture out in the cold or snow when you can stay warm inside with a hot beverage? However, if you hibernate indoors all winter, you’re missing a number of fun outdoor activities that are available at this time of year. You can get outside, take in some fresh air, and try an activity together. Who knows; maybe you’ll find one that sticks and that will make you look forward to winter rather than dread it.
If you’re staying in a four-season campground, see whether you’re close to mountains or resorts that offer winter activities. If not, look to local parks or even your own backyard. You can spend quality time with your family and build memories. Here are some of the fun winter options you can consider.
Downhill Skiing And Snowboarding
While many kids love the idea of zooming downhill, parents may cringe at the idea if they haven’t grown up skiing or snowboarding. However, mountain ski resorts offer a variety of lessons, from beginner to expert, to help folks become more skilled on skis. Once you are comfortable on skis or a snowboard, you can cruise down the easy trails, or if you’re up for the challenge, try skiing on more difficult terrain. For those with special needs, adaptable ski equipment is available.
One reason we look forward to winter in New England is ski season. I’ll admit; I hate the cold. I find the idea of staying inside with a warm beverage and a book extremely attractive. But the thrill of skiing the slopes is enough to get me up early on a weekend morning. Skiing also is the one activity that everyone in my family enjoys, so I look at it as quality time together.
One of the drawbacks to skiing and snowboarding is the cost. When you factor in the price of lift tickets, rentals, or equipment, and warm outerwear, it can add up quickly. However, you can cut costs by searching online for lift ticket deals, family packages, and used equipment. Some mountains offer tremendous discounts or freebies for first-timers to encourage people to try the sport. The bottom line is to do a little research and you might save a lot of money.
Bonus points for parents: Time on a chairlift is the perfect opportunity to have a conversation with your kids. They’re trapped in a chair with you, have nowhere to go, and won’t be distracted by electronic devices.
Cross-country skiing is a much different experience from downhill skiing. Rather than sitting in a chairlift before you zip down the mountain, you move continuously on the terrain. Many ski facilities have a section with cross-country ski trails. It’s a terrific workout for your entire body, as you’re using your arms, legs, and core, but you might not even realize you’re exercising as you experience the outdoors.
While cross-country skiing doesn’t offer the same rush as skiing downhill, it’s a physically challenging yet relaxing experience. You can spend an enjoyable morning or afternoon with your family pointing out what you see in nature, such as animal tracks or other signs of wildlife. If your kids are younger, you can keep them interested by playing a game such as “I Spy” or an alphabet game where you spot things from A to Z.
My family added cross-country skiing to our winter fun list a few years ago and discovered it’s a great alternative to downhill skiing. It’s more low-key, and we don’t need to wait in lines for chairlifts. It’s also much less expensive, as the trail passes and gear cost less than those for downhill skiing. With our own gear, we’ve found we can ski inexpensively on groomed trails in wildlife sanctuaries or even ski for free on ungroomed trails in public areas, such as along a river or in local parks.
If you want to get outside without all the gear, costs, and expenses of skiing or snowboarding, try one of the classic winter activities — sledding. It’s simple, fun, and low-cost, making it an attractive outdoors option. Kids of all ages love sledding and can spend hours on the hills. All you need is a sled (or, in a pinch, something that can function as a sled, such as a piece of cardboard or plastic) and a snow-covered hill. Bonus: You’ll work in some exercise climbing up the hill in between runs.
If your family enjoys sledding, but is looking for a bit more excitement, snow tubing is a good alternative. Some ski resorts have a snow-tubing area, or you may find a park that focuses on tubing alone. Instead of working up a sweat dragging your sled up a hill, you are conveyed in some manner up to the top. Keep in mind that you’ll zoom down fast on the snow tube. The wind hits you, so bundle up in layers. Whereas we heat up when skiing or sledding as we expend energy, we don’t do so when snow tubing and tend to need an extra layer for warmth.
It takes time and practice to learn how to balance on ice skates, but once you manage it, you’ll find how enjoyable it is. You don’t need much equipment — just warm clothing and skates. You can rent skates at a relatively low cost from a recreational rink or you can buy a pair if you enjoy the activity and intend to do it often. Ice-skating rinks are found in many areas. Some families enjoy it so much that they build a skating rink in their backyard.
Strap snowshoes on over your shoes, and it’s easier to walk in the snow. Plus, it’s fun and inexpensive. You don’t need to worry about balance or coordination as much as with some of the other activities; if you can walk, you most likely can snowshoe. Snowshoes are relatively inexpensive to rent from ski parks or sites that offer snowshoeing areas, or you can buy a pair to navigate parks or trails nearby.
Simple Outdoor Fun
If you just want to get outside with your family and play in the snow, think about making a snowman or a family of snow angels. If you’re more ambitious, you can create a snow fort or igloo. This can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish. You may just build up a wall as part of your fortress, or spend an afternoon building an elaborate structure that you can enjoy until the snow melts.
One of the biggest obstacles you’ll face is the weather. When you or your kids are cold, something fun quickly can become miserable.
Dress in layers. Wearing layers is a key mantra in outdoor sports, for good reason. You want to keep your core temperature warm and preserve your energy. If you can purchase under-layer clothing designed to keep you warm, it will make a big difference. This type of clothing may be more expensive, but it is designed to keep you warmer than say, a cotton T-shirt, which won’t help you much at all. I’ve heard the phrase “avoid cotton” almost as much as I’ve heard “wear layers.”
Some activities require more energy than others. When you start cross-country skiing, for instance, you may be cold, but once you begin moving, you can heat up quickly, especially if you climb hills. As you warm up, you want to remove layers so you don’t end up sweating too much.
Wear sunscreen. Since it’s winter, you may think it’s fine to skip sunscreen. Don’t. We’ve made this mistake ourselves and ended up sunburned after a day of skiing. The sun’s rays don’t just shine on you; they reflect off the snow, too. Be prepared so you don’t wind up with an unexpected sunburn.
Take breaks. Nothing permanently kills a person’s interest when trying something new than if he or she winds up cold, tired, and miserable. If you or a family member is cold or hungry, find a place where you can go inside and take a break. Kids may be encouraged to continue with the activity after they have a few minutes of downtime or small rewards to keep them going. Take a short break, maybe with some cookies and cocoa. If your kids are old enough, you can send them inside while you have some time with your spouse or partner. Make the best of it so everyone enjoys the day.
Whichever activity you try, take note of what you need to do to keep your family safe. If you’re going downhill skiing or snowboarding, for example, wear a helmet. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or an expert. Anyone can have an accident. When my daughter was 6 years old, she skied into a barn that was set up as a fun obstacle for people to ski through, not into. The dent in her helmet indicated the serious damage she could have incurred without the helmet, and I’m forever thankful she had one on. My brother-in-law, on the other hand, is an expert skier who didn’t use one. After a spill on an icy black diamond trail, the first words he said were, “Now I know why people wear helmets.”
Speaking of safety, it’s always a good idea to have a first-aid kit and water on hand anytime you are away from the motorhome or another facility. If you plan to be out for an extended period, bring some snacks along to keep your energy levels up.
If you’re interested in trying one or more of these activities, many books and Web sites can help you prepare. While you might think that sledding doesn’t need as much preparation or equipment as downhill or cross-country skiing, you might find tips on good places to sled in your area or a suitable sled or sleds for your group.
After spending some family time together outdoors, nothing beats warming up inside with hot cocoa or cider. Forget turning on the television or letting everyone escape to their electronic devices; now’s the perfect time for you to finish the day together. You can talk about your adventure or play a game. After all, these are the memories that will last.