If your family is anything like mine, cabin fever sets in during winter’s first cold snap. We feel cooped up after just one day inside, and the itch to get out there has resulted in many memorable adventures. This winter, plan an outing before your kids demand it. In addition to your traditional sledding and ice skating, explore one or two winter sports to try for the first time.
For Everyone: Tubing
For young children, or those who aren’t necessarily looking for a new skill, tubing is a classic winter activity. For as long as people have engaged in snowy mischief, they’ve gone snow tubing. All it takes is a little courage, and tubing is one of the easiest and most popular winter activities out there. All you need is a slope, a durable inner tube, and layers of warm winter clothing.
Most ski areas offer tubing in a designated zone, or throughout the resort during the evening hours after the skiers and snowboarders have retired. Rather than a full-fledged chair or gondola, adventurers usually stand on a large, slow-moving conveyor lift or hold onto a rope tow to the top of the slope.
If you’re used to sledding, you’ll see quickly that a tube doesn’t stay pointing in one direction. If you’d like to stay facing forward on your tube, link arms with another tuber, and have them do the same with someone else so that you form a chain. Be aware that once you have a little momentum, it’s pretty difficult to stop yourself until the terrain levels out. This may seem obvious, but people tend to panic at the sensation of losing control. If you drag your arm or leg to slow yourself down, you’ll probably end up spinning. Instead, just lower yourself into the center of the tube so that your back acts like a brake. Remember that just a little lack of control is a good experience for kids when they least expect it.
For the Active: Cross Country Skiing
Would you like to explore and get some exercise? Cross-country (XC) skiing is the one endeavor that should be on everyone’s winter activity list.
To plan your first trip, start with gear. You’ll want to rent or borrow equipment the first time to be sure it’s something you can do in the future. Most nordic centers offer a beginner lesson that provides a tour of good local trails and outfits you with what you’ll need. You could also look for a winter sports retailer for equipment. If you’re confident enough to buy online, many websites use the terms nordic, backcountry, and XC skiing interchangeably. So if you haven’t found the gear you’d like, try switching up your search terms.
Wonder where you would go on skis? You’ll be delighted to see that your favorite summer bike trail probably doubles as a cross country route when snow is on the ground. Knowing the locale from a previous activity makes for a perfect first-time route because it eliminates your chances of getting lost. But try a new ski-friendly course as soon as you’re comfortable.
The motion of nordic skiing has been described as “kick and glide,” but it’s more like a gentle push from each leg that propels you forward. And unlike tubing, stopping on nordic skis is as natural as ceasing to run. Simply slow your strides, and the friction of the snow on your skis will reduce your speed.
For the Adventurous: Snowboarding
Perhaps most rewarding of all winter sports is snowboarding. As a Level 2 AASI Certified Snowboard Instructor myself, I am partial to this sport. In fact, I think everyone should snowboard a few times each winter! What used to be a subversive hobby for punks and rebels is now hooking moms and dads.
Like skiing, don’t purchase equipment for your first time snowboarding. Ask your social circle for any loaner gear available, or rent from the mountain resort itself. Be sure to use helmets, even if you plan to spend your first few hours on the beginner hill.
For first-timers, a lesson is a must. Sign your whole family up for a group lesson, because a private lesson can be double or triple the cost. Expect to learn three things on the first day:
- How to get around the resort without endangering yourself or others
- How to stop
- How to use the chair lift
“No halfpipe?” you may ask. Snowboarding is something you’ll surely enjoy, but if you want to have fun, leave the trick facilities to the more experienced riders.
After your lesson, compare notes with one another over some hot chocolate, and then get back out there to practice what you’ve learned. Once the lifts close, your kids may surprise you and still have energy for tubing!
An unexpected opportunity in all of these activities is a new, familial tradition of activeness even after the temperature drops. Share with your friends what you’ve been up to; they’ll likely have a wipe-out story of their own. Snow sports bring people together unlike any other outing. Which one will you try this winter?
Image source: Flickr