1) Clothing and Packs
You will want to dress everyone in layers. A good long underwear base coupled with snow pants and a nice shell is great for starters. Little ones will generate a lot of heat walking around, maybe even more than you since they will be putting in more effort. Finish the outfit with toques, mittens and snow boots. Remember that mittens will keep your little one’s hands warmer than gloves and they may need something more waterproof than you do as they are more susceptible to falling and may not be able to resist the urge to make snowballs. Everyone should carry a small backpack with a mid-layer such as a down jacket or a polar fleece for added warmth just in case anyone cools off or if you plan to stop for a winter picnic. Even small children can carry their own small nap-sack, be sure that the straps are padded in the shoulders and that the packs are nice and light. You can also include a spare pair of gloves, socks and a neck warmer in your day packs in case anyone gets too wet or cold. Also pack, sun glasses, sun screen, a snack and some water, especially if you plan to be out for an extended period.
2) Snowshoes and Poles
The big question with new sports is always: Should I buy or rent the gear? For the first time you may want to try snowshoe rentals which you can pick up at the Access Callaghan Ski Shop for $12. Children’s snowshoes are relatively inexpensive considering how long they last. They are also fairly small and easy to store and can be handed down from child to child. See brands such as GV, Atlas, MSR for snowshoes in kids sizes. Snowshoes in this class are often rated for 30-80 pounds, after that, your child will move to adult sizes. Shoes should support your child’s weight while donning winter clothes and carrying a small pack. They should have an easy to use strap-in-system and have crampons underfoot, to help provide grip on hills and ice. Alpine poles are not necessary, especially for smaller children, however if you are going for longer distances with older children, poles are recommended. They provide extra stability on ungroomed trails, up-hill and when carrying heaver packs. For preteens and teenagers, try adjustable poles that can grow with them.
As the saying goes... If you can walk, you can snowshoe. This is especially true for older children and adults, but for smaller children you may want to start off by playing a few games to set them up for success. Try waddling like a penguin, or making dinosaur tracks to get them walking in a wider stance. Also practice making U-turns, snowshoes are great for going forwards and sideways, but they can never go backwards. Other fun games to play include classics like Simon Says and Red-Light-Green-Light. Or you can get really creative and try playing Charades, instead of drawing with paper and pencil; you can have your child draw out different shapes with their tracks. Try easy shapes like circles, hearts and houses to start and have someone else guess what the shape is. Another popular activity with children is a good old fashioned scavenger hunt. For a pre-made printable winter scavenger hunt list click here.
4) Where and When
Location and timing are two of the most important decisions you will make to dictate the level of enjoyment had by all. Try to avoid any bad weather; no one likes being exposed to wind, sleet or rain and this goes double for children. Here on the West Coast one of the most popular reasons to participate in snow sports is to take a break from the rainy city and recharge up in the frosted alpine. You will also want to choose easy hikes to start. A nice introductory snowshoe trail is the Wetland Wanderer which starts right at Callaghan Country's Alexander Falls Base Touring Centre. Its a short green (easy) trail and stays close to the base, so you can rest assure that you won’t be very far from your vehicle if things go awry. Once everyone is comfortable with their skills, you can embark on a more challenging winter family adventures! For kids ages 10 and older, get them excited by visiting Alexander Falls! This is a truly spectacular trail with a tall frozen waterfall and the end.