Sunday, January 31, 2010

Packing tips for the family ski trip

I wouldn’t normally consider the New York Times a go-to source for information on outdoor recreation, particularly on the nuts and bolts of packing for ski trips. I’ve spent nearly a lifetime on skis — my parents strapped me onto them (and it was straps, back then) as soon as I could walk — and I have time-tested systems that work. But I came away from reading a January 22 article in the Times with several solutions to persistent packing problems.

As in, we get to a ski area, and I’m digging through the rabbit warren of canvas bags, backpacks, and duffel bags in the back of the car, asking such questions as Where’s Virgil’s hat? I thought we packed Ursula’s gloves. (If you’re married, you know that statement functions as a question.) I know we have snowpants, but where are they?

Times sportswriter Bill Pennington offered a trio of tips to solve these problems. The first comes straight out of Parenting 101: Make children responsible for their own gear, at least once they’re of a certain age. Ursula, at 11, has clearly reached that age; at 7, Virgil may be there.

But then Pennington went a step further: Help them be responsible for their own gear by getting them to pack it in individual boot bags or backpacks, separate from their other clothing and off-slope gear. Pennington explained the value of having separate gear bags for each family member: “On the morning of your first day of skiing or riding, not only is there only one place to look for all that stuff, [but] should you have to drive to the mountain from your lodging, everyone takes his bags, carrying everything he needs into the lodge.” It’s a simple tweak of our current system that I can see immediately will smooth many of our trip wrinkles.

For the final tip in his packing trio, Pennington drew on the experience of Diane Mueller, a mother of two who also operates three ski resorts with her husband. For her skiing and snowboarding children, Mueller put together a checklist of everything that needed to go in those individual gear bags — boots, hats, goggles, gloves, helmet, chapstick... The kids had the list, but as Mueller said, “It was up to them to make sure they brought what they knew they would need.”

To that suggestion, I would add a back-pocket tip that might come in handy if you still want to ski while the responsibility lessons take hold. We keep a fabric bin in the back of the car with extra seasonal gear. In the winter the bin contains second-string wool socks, gloves, hats, extra jackets, even a sleeping bag and flashlights. (In the summer, we switch out the wool socks for terrycloth beach towels, swimming suits, tennis shoes, and sunscreen.)

It strikes me that these tips work well for other sports beyond downhill skiing and snowboarding. I wrote up my first gear checklists this morning for cross-country skiing .... and fencing and karate.

Learn more
Read the full New York Times article to learn the connection between instant oatmeal and easy ski weekends, and more.
Read an AMC Outdoors article on packing for winter hiking and camping trips.

Photo caption: What doesn't work.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Nibbling away at the obesity epidemic

We’ve been hearing about the epidemic of childhood obesity for more than a decade. Every few years a new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) survey comes out, showing us how many more of our children are tipping the scales toward long-term health problems. The most recent shocking figure is that one in three American children is overweight or obese.

First Lady Michelle Obama put that figure up front in two recent speeches. On January 20, it topped the list of dire statistics she recited to the U.S. Conference of Mayors; on January 28, the day after the President’s State of the Union address, she quoted it in a speech in Alexandria, VA. Her appearances came in advance of a national campaign against childhood obesity that the First Lady is rolling out this next month. But statistics played a small role in these first speeches. If her language is any indication, Michelle Obama will make this an unusually personal campaign — with direct, simple appeals to families and teachers and community leaders.

She framed the epidemic in personal terms by telling a story, one many parents can relate to: As a working mom, she often turned to easy solutions to feed her children — fast food, take-out, pizza. At a check-up, the family’s pediatrician referenced one of the obesity battle statistics, one that cut close to home. Black teenage girls had the highest rate of childhood obesity — 27.7% — in the most recent CDC surveys. The “wake-up call” from their family doctor, as the First Lady called it, touched off a number of changes in the Obama household.

Each of the changes Obama mentioned in her speech was, by itself, a small one. She instituted a family rule against watching TV during the week. She put more fruit and vegetables on the table. Gave her daughters water instead of sugared drinks for their lunch boxes. Made sure that the family spent more time outside, riding bikes, going to parks.

Simple doesn’t mean simplistic. Research supports the First Lady: Add up such small change, and it can be the difference between health and health problems, between activity and inactivity, between a healthy weight and obesity. Without saying it in so many words, Michelle Obama has acknowledged that alarming statistics alone haven’t been enough to motivate a positive change in our nation’s habits. And this issue cannot be addressed through a single, big solution. That is the message that Michelle Obama hopes to share with other American families in her campaign, that “small changes can lead to big results.”

Her campaign doesn’t officially roll out until next month, but it is expected to focus on increasing opportunities for physical activity and on supporting better nutrition in school and at home, and will rely on local governments, schools, and families to make those small changes happen.

In her January 20 speech to U.S. mayors, a key on-the-ground group in her campaign, Obama highlighted successful, common-sense initiatives from around the country: the mayor of Arlington, Texas, who is a physician, gave children pedometers to encourage them to walk during summer vacation; the mayor of Columbia, Mo., is building walkways and bikeways; in Bowling Green, Ky., the mayor launched a website that encouraged citizens to use local parks and even provided trail maps.

Specific initiatives and proposals will emerge as the campaign unfolds. But in the examples she chose to share with the nation’s mayors, I was struck by how many of the success stories have something to do with kids being outdoors.

I think she’s onto something.

Learn more

• Statistics on childhood obesity from the CDC.
• Reports on Michelle Obama's speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors and in Alexandria, VA.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Outdoor Kids and Families at the AMC Annual Meeting

The Appalachian Mountain Club will hold its annual meeting on Saturday, January 30, at the Crowne Plaza Boston North Shore (formerly the Sheraton Ferncroft Resort) in Danvers, MA. This event is open to members and non-members — and to AMC’s youngest audience, children.

AMC is offering a special rate for young outdoorsfolk ages 12 and under: $15 for the full event program — the AMC Showcase Expo, workshops, and dinner. Dinner also includes the keynote speaker, adventure writer and photographer Jonathan Waterman, who will be talking about his journeys into Alaska’s Arctic Refuge. The expo opens at 8:30 a.m.; the workshops run in one-hour segments between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. The dinner and keynote begin at 6 p.m. (registration required).

Several workshops are of special interest to outdoors families:

Staying Found. This workshop talks to kids and their parents about the principles of preparation and safe travel in the woods, as well as what kids can do if they get lost. The workshop includes a video and hands-on activities for parents and kids, as well as a demonstration of what every kid should carry into the woods so they can stay Safe and Found.

Adventure Travel with Families. Have you ever thought that you have to give up on adventure when kids join the family? Think again. Bring the kids along to enjoy a presentation about the joys of big travel with the whole family. Leaders will share their experiences and photos of their favorite outdoor adventures with kids ranging in age from toddlers to teens.

Climate Change for Families. Bring the family for an interactive workshop about how climate change is affecting New England’s mountains, waters, and trails, and what you can do at home to reverse the trends. This program includes an overview of climate change and how New England may change over the next 100 years. It also explores what individuals, families, and communities can do to take action on climate change. Appropriate for ages 10 and up.

AMC’s Historical Film Fest. Grab some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the show, as librarian and archivist Becky Fullerton presents historic films from AMC’s collections. These range from “home movies” of AMC trips to the White Mountains in the 1930s, hikes on Katahdin in the 1940s, and whitewater paddling in the early 1970s. Some are narrated, others are silent, but all have fascinating stories to tell.

Favorite AMC trail games. This participatory workshop especially for kids will be held concurrently with the business meeting, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Learn more
Registration information, online sign-ups, directions, and more on the AMC website.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Go Away, Mrs. Thaw!

One of our favorite winter picture books is Ollie’s Ski Trip, written and illustrated a century ago by Elsa Beskow, who is known as the Beatrix Potter of Sweden. In the story, Ollie receives his first pair of skis on his sixth birthday. When the first snow comes, he skis into the forest, where Jack Frost notices Ollie's delight in winter and invites the boy to visit King Winter’s splendid ice palace.

I've been thinking about Ollie’s trip today, because he and Jack Frost encounter Mrs. Thaw on the way to meet King Winter. Beskow depicts Mrs. Thaw as a blowsy hausfrau. Her galoshes squelch with every step, she blows her nose and sneezes as if she has a terrible cold, and wherever she goes, she leaves behind a slushy, muddy mess. Jack Frost roars at her to go away. Little Ollie, who has obviously been taught to be respectful to adults, is horrified by Jack Frost’s rudeness. The icy man explains: Mrs. Thaw is Winter’s cleaning lady. But she is terribly forgetful, and always shows up too early. The only way to keep her from ruining a good winter is to scare her away.

Mrs. Thaw is making a mess of winter all over New England right now. Monday morning at Boston’s Logan Airport, the temperature jumped 12 degrees between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. Much of the region saw between one and three inches of rain before nightfall, with especially heavy rain in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and Mahoosuc Mountains of Maine. Weather reports are talking about ice jams, high winds, and power outages.

After Ollie returns from visiting the Winter King (our children especially like the polar bear guards), he follows Jack Frost’s advice for the rest of the winter, calling, “Mrs. Thaw, Mrs. Thaw, Please don’t sweep our snow away!” each time he goes outside. The refrain has become one of those bits of language that our family carries with us like an inside joke.

Our kids want winter to go on for some time yet. We need to plead with Mrs. Thaw, as Ollie does, and ask that over-eager cleaner to take her busy broom someplace else until we’re truly ready for spring.

Learn more

Find Ollie's Ski Trip at The New England Ski Museum.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Young Men and Fire

Virgil invited his friend Liam over to our house a couple of weekends ago. The morning after their sleep-over, they played with LEGOs and stuffed animals, watched a couple of episodes of "Ben-10," tried a couple of card games. Neither was all that interested in going outside — until Jim suggested roasting marshmallows. It wasn’t the marshmallows that got them up off the couch, although these are two boys who never turn down a chance to rot their teeth. It was the chance to build a fire.

"To build a fire": Even for young readers who haven’t encountered Jack London’s timeless story of a man, a dog, and a match in a race against cold in the Alaskan wilderness, there’s magic in that phrase. Virgil and his friend Liam felt the pull. For fire, they'd agree to leave their comfortable spot indoors — but only for twenty or thirty minutes.

Jim is the fire-builder in our family. He heated a log cabin and our first home using wood stoves, and he’s taught Ursula and Virgil how to lay a fire, how to light it, and how to put it out. While Liam, Virgil, and Ursula pulled on snowpants and jackets, Jim poured hot chocolate and tea into thermoses and packed them, along with a bag of marshmallows, a box of matches, and Virgil’s first-ever Swiss Army knife, in a backpack. They walked into the back woods about 100 feet, just far enough so they couldn’t see the house.

Jim designated Ursula the day’s master fire-builder and Virgil and Liam her assistants. He sent the three of them off to find fire-starter material, telling them to look for downed trees or evergreens that had lost all their needles. Virgil found a dead birch tree and sliced the bark from it with his knife. Ursula showed Liam how to break small twigs and larger branches from another tree.

Ursula stomped out a small space in the snow that would become a platform for the fire. Then she constructed a small lattice-work with longer sticks and lay in the bark and twigs. Jim oversaw the carving of the marshmallow sticks, which gave Liam his first-ever experience using a jack-knife. As the fire builder, Ursula had the honor of the first match. The best fires, she’s learned from her dad, are those started with a single match. She touched the small flame to the strips of birch bark and dry sticks. The boys bent down low, too, so they saw the bark begin to curl and the tip of a stick redden and then brighten as the fire took hold.

A supervised winter fire is a safe way to introduce children to this elemental art. After feeding their store of sticks to the flame, Virgil, Liam, and Ursula let it burn down to hot coals, flamed a few marshmallows for good measure, and finally — reluctantly — piled snow over the remaining embers.

Jim glanced at his watch. They’d been out well over an hour. Still the boys lingered, not ready to break the spell. Before they left, Liam turned to Virgil and asked, "When can we do this again?"

Learn more
The title of this blog comes from Norman Maclean’s book of the same name about the Mann Gulch forest fire of 1945.
Two versions of Jack London’s short story, “To Build a Fire.”
Instructions on how to build a fire in the snow, from eHow.

Illustration from "To Build a Fire."

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Walk in the Woods

On the first day of the new year, Debbie Livingston went for a walk with her two children, three-year-old Shep and baby Dahlia, three months. If you didn’t know Debbie Livingston, you might assume that she went out for a stroll (literally, pushing a stroller) around the streets of her Connecticut neighborhood.

But Debbie is an outdoors mom. She and her husband, Scott, and several friends had rung in the New Year in New Hampshire’s North Country. On the first day of 2010, while Scott attempted a winter hike of Mt. Adams and Mt. Madison, Debbie and a friend decided to hike along the Old Jackson Road, which is part of the Appalachian Trail and offers views of Adams and Madison. Shep would have a friend along as well, a two-and-a-half-year-old boy.

It had been snowing for two straight days, was snowing still, and would snow for two more. On the Valley Way trail, Debbie’s husband and his climbing partners would find the going slow. Debbie checked the temperature before she left Joe Dodge Lodge: in the mid-teens.

This might sound like the set-up to a tragedy. But the two mothers had plenty of experience, a good plan, and a comfortable, safe transportation system. At Joe Dodge Lodge, the mothers belted the two toddlers into the seats of sleds called pulks. “Pulk” is a Scandinavian word that comes from the Sami, reindeer-herding people who live above the Arctic Circle and who’ve refined the design of snow sleds over many centuries. The moms put snacks and drinks for the little ones within easy reach in side pockets. Debbie strapped Dahlia, who is several months from sitting up, into a hammock-style sling next to her brother. A vented plastic cover protected the children from the elements and gave them a front-window view of the action.

The children settled, the two women then strapped on snowshoes and buckled themselves into pulling harnesses. Rigid poles kept the carriers and their cargo a constant distance behind the moms, leaving enough room for snowshoes or skis.

In pulling a sled, the hardest step is always the first. After Debbie got her 70-pound load moving, the runners slid easily over the packed snow, although the two women occasionally needed to help each other lift their pulks over rocks or push them through tight spots on the trail. Debbie, who trains for ultra distance trail-running, started running with Shep in a child-carrier from the time he was six weeks old. (The Livingstons use the same carrier chassis as a running stroller and a pulk, popping off the wheels to attach sled runners.) She learned to time her workouts around Shep’s naps, and now does the same for Dahlia’s. The motion of being pushed in the stroller or pulled in the pulk seems to induce a mellow drowsiness in both children, and they rarely fidget.

She also doesn’t push their limits: The first outing of 2010 lasted a little less than two hours, and mothers and children spent a pleasant afternoon back at the lodge. The two boys watched snowplows through the window, played in the Discovery Room, and ran the hallways.

The men? They made it to the summit of Mt. Madison in a stiff wind and blowing snow but turned around in deteriorating conditions before reaching Adams.

Learn more

General information about ski sleds from a cross-country ski website.
Information about the Chariot CX-2, the brand that Debbie Livingston uses.
Read Scott Livingston's blog post about the Mt. Adams and Mt. Madison climb.

Photo credits: Scott Livingston. Debbie Livingston carrying Dahlia. The Chariot CX-2 ready for action.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tracking the Wild Child

There are times — usually on days when the kids spend 100 minutes in the car and 10 outside — when I wonder who I’m fooling. In those forehead-against-the steering-wheel moments, I worry that our children are just not spending enough time outside and are therefore missing a crucial part of their development.

I don’t think I over-estimate the hours I spent in imaginative outdoor play when I was a child. It’s hard to translate childhood memory into solid numbers, but I remember building forts with my brothers and returning to them over many weeks, remember freestyle roaming through woods and meadows, remember feeling that I was actually watching flowers grow. How can Ursula and Virgil develop a deep love of the outdoors, I ask myself at the end of too many days of too tight a family schedule, if we can’t give them that kind of time?

And then there are days like Saturday.

Saturday was a January-thaw day here and the start of a three-day weekend. Neither of the children got in the car, not even for a minute. Both — but especially Ursula — spent most of the day outside, in the sun and in the snow. Late in the afternoon, Jim sent me to look for Ursula, who had violin practice and some chores to get in before dinner. “I last saw her in the back yard,” he told me, so I headed out the back door.

I immediately came to bootprints that looked Ursula’s size. I tried to follow them, putting my feet into the same holes, but the tracks veered off at an oblique angle after only three or four steps, and then veered back again, crossing over the first set. What’s more, at each change of direction, the trail contained odd deep hollows. I stopped and looked more closely. What could have made those double indentations with the ridges that looked like ... bunched-up snowsuit? Now I had another question: What was Ursula doing on her knees?

I scanned the backyard. The setting sun cast its warm light and long shadows across the snow. I shaded my eyes and tried to get a general sense of where Ursula was headed. Nowhere in particular, it seemed. Her tracks marched — that is, if it was a drunken sailor doing the marching — up the hillside by the apple trees and back down, punctuated every few steps by those double knee-bends. I picked a set of wild zigzags at the far end of the yard and followed them toward the back pasture.

After a few weaving turns in her tracks, I started to smile. A few more and I laughed out loud. It was impossible not to. I saw Ursula up ahead. Or rather, I saw a mound of red and black in the middle of the pasture and recognized it as Ursula’s jacket. The mound moved, then stood up, facing away from me. There was a flurry of motion — a little jig in the snow, some windmilling of her right arm — and I saw something, a snowball, I guessed, flying off behind her. She whirled around and bounded off in the same direction as the snowball. She pounced. My first thought: She looks just like a fox. My second: Ah! Double knee-drops explained!

She saw me then and motioned me over. My little snow fox wanted to throw snowballs at me, and tell me about her game, and roll in the snow some more. Later, Jim and I figured that she’d been outside, doing whatever she’d been doing, for a good four hours. A rare experience? Yes, too rare. But she lived inside the outdoors on Saturday afternoon, really lived. And when she came in, she brought some of its wildness in with her.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

January Thaw

It felt like a holiday around here over the long weekend: three days without homework for the kids, a similar reprieve from driving and deadlines for Jim and me.

Our holiday spirits were boosted even higher by a happy change in the weather. After waking up to gray skies for days on end, we opened our eyes on the first day of the weekend to clear skies — and sun. What’s more, temperatures that had sunk below zero on Thursday ascended above 40 on Saturday.

We shouldn’t have been surprised. Meteorologists have identified a “singularity” — a weather event that occurs at a particular time of year more frequently than chance would indicate — in the Northeastern United States in the latter half of January. They’ve observed a historical trend of about four days in the second half of the month, often between January 20 and 24 and often after a cold snap, when temperatures rise above freezing and stay about 10 degrees above the seasonal mean.

Folk-lore has already given this phenomenon a name: the January thaw. To thaw, according to my dictionary, means to melt, which the snow on our roof was certainly doing on Saturday. To thaw also means “to become free of the effect of cold as a result of exposure to warmth.” My dictionary helpfully lists the following effects of cold: stiffness, numbness, hardness.

Everywhere I looked on Saturday, I saw loosening, softening, warming. Icicles dripped onto the porch. Bare ground poked through in a couples of patches on the south-facing hill behind the house. Our dirt road, which has been frozen since early December, turned into muddy ruts. The year’s first frost heaves buckled the pavement down on the state highway.

The four of us felt it, too. We couldn’t stay inside, even though the tree needed taking down, papers needed filing, and other chores called. I went for a long cross-country ski thinking I was dressed appropriately but ended up peeling off two layers on top and doing without gloves altogether. When I came back, I went looking for Ursula. I found her out back, lying in the snow, grinning. She patted the snow next to her, and I joined her, turning my face up to the sun, too. Moments later, I felt something solid splatter my jacket. Ursula exulted. “Finally, it’s decent snowball snow!”

I know it won’t stay like this. In fact, I don’t want it to. If we’re going to have winter, I want a real season, with snow to ski on and ice to skate on and smooth, frozen roads. And sure enough, the forecast calls for a return to below-freezing temperatures later this week.

There’s a third definition of “thaw” in my dictionary: “to abandon aloofness, reserve, or hostility: unbend.” I know this mid-winter holiday marks Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthdate. But it feels right to me that our remembrance of his life and his vision of social justice often coincides with a seasonal thaw. We can become numb to injustice, harden ourselves against change. Along about the third week of January, we need to be reminded not to freeze too far down, and to look for spring.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Home Sweet Dome: Building Snow Caves

Last winter, as part of a family ski weekend in Maine, Lucas St. Clair, his wife, Yemaya Maurer, and assorted siblings built a snow cave for six. They picked a flat open spot protected from the wind on one side and with a view over a wilderness lake on the other. Starting early on a winter afternoon, the group piled snow high and packed it down. They drank hot chocolate while the snow dome hardened. Several hours of sweaty digging out later, their sleeping quarters were ready. The group spent a warm night under the snow, and although they skied out the next day, the structure they created could have housed them many more nights — and, at a constant temperature right around freezing, in relative winter comfort.

St. Clair and Maurer were well qualified to lead that family construction project. Outdoor leadership instructors, they’re the co-authors of The AMC Guide to Winter Hiking and Camping. St. Clair and Maurer know that snow is a paradoxically wonderful building material, as children seem to understand intuitively: Snow can be hard or soft, is easily molded yet sturdy, and, though the product of cold, can be a surprisingly good insulator.

Children and families can create snow structures as close to home as the backyard or on winter getaways. Whether it’s a simple two-sided snow fort or the domed cave that St. Clair and Maurer and their relatives built, all you need to become your own snow builder are a few simple steps, a handful of household tools, and some basic safety guidelines.

Before building a snow cave, children need to be able to follow these safety guidelines:

1. Never construct or play in snow cave alone.
2. Never climb on top of snow caves.
3. Maintain proper ventilation and proper wall thickness.

St. Clair and Maurer called their snow cave a quinzhee, after the Athabascan word for the traditional winter dwelling built by native people of the far north. Athabascans created quinzhees by piling up great cones of snow and then hollowing them out. To create their quinzhee, St. Clair and Maurer piled snow about five feet high and a little wider than it was tall. Their group compacted the snow by stomping on it with their skis; snowshoes also work well, as does laying a board over the pile and standing on that. Before starting to dig it out, let the mound sit for at least 2 hours — or even for a day if the snow is light and dry.

* Stick ski poles, avalanche probes, or branches 12-18 inches into the snow pile before digging it out. They become thickness markers as the snow cave is being created.
* When the snow pile has hardened, start digging a tunnel. Lightweight mountaineering shovels and gardening trowels, even large serving spoons, may be easier for children to use than standard snow shovels. Angling the tunnel up slightly makes it easier to remove snow. Inside the cave, shoveling on one’s knees works well and is safer than lying on one’s back.
* Digging out a snow cave is hard work and should never be attempted alone. St. Clair and his family shoveled about four hours to complete their cave. (Smaller caves will take less time.) Working so hard, they had to be careful not to become drenched with sweat and risk hypothermia. Always work in groups of at least two. One person can shovel while another removes snow from the tunnel entrance. In a larger group, someone can check the thickness and overall soundness of the structure — or even build snow sentries (otherwise known as snowmen) to stand guard.
* Stop digging out from the inside at the thickness of the sticks or poles. The domed roof of the cave can be several inches less thick than the sides.
* Poke ventilation holes (three or more) into the completed structure and make sure that they remain open as long as the structure is being used. The holes left by your thickness markers can serve this purpose as well.
* If the temperature is below freezing, pour water over the finished structure to increase its strength. For fun, decorate it with food coloring, or pinecones and evergreen branches.
* With thawing temperatures, test the cave. If it has softened to the point that it’s no longer safe, have the pleasure of smashing it in (and keep it from becoming a hazard).
* Snow forts — two to four uncovered walls — require less time, less snow, and less adult supervision than quinzhees. Make snow "bricks" by packing snow into plastic bins or wastebaskets, let the bricks air-harden, and set them into place.

Snow offers children opportunities to build the playscapes of their imagination — and adults the chance to be a kid all over again. A well-built snow fort or snow cave can be shelter for a night — or fun for a whole winter.

Learn more
Watch a video of St. Clair and Maurer building a quinzhee.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

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