Snowshoeing is a great way to introduce kids to winter sports. Not only
is it low-cost, but unlike skiing, it requires no real training period.
You simply strap on your snowshoes and walk. Plus, it’s pretty. Without
leaves on the trees, sunlight reaches deep into the untrammeled woods,
providing magical views.
That said, even a winter wonderland
loses its luster when kids are frustrated or tired. To help your brood
find its snowshoe groove, try these 10 tips.
1. Newbies of any
age should start on groomed snow, such as a cross-country ski trail.
It’s much easier to snowshoe on a packed surface than in deep snow. Once
the kids are confident, try the fluffier stuff.
2. For your
first outing, aim for a distance slightly shorter than you would take
kids hiking. Snowshoeing may be straightforward, but it requires more
energy than walking. If your kids can handle a 3-mile hike, try a 2-mile
snowshoe. For capable 6-mile hikers, try a 4-mile snowshoe.
You can snowshoe any time of day. Just be sure to bring headlamps if
you’re heading out near dusk. Nothing beats a full-moon wander.
Let kids know they’ll have to lift their feet higher than when walking.
They’ll also want to keep their feet a shoulder’s width apart, so the
snowshoes don’t catch on each other. For extra grip on steeper slopes,
they’ll need to dig in the metal crampons on the bottoms of their
5. Especially for novices, I recommend poles for
balance. Any old ski poles from the thrift store will do. Good winter
boots are also essential. Any brand is fine, as long as they’re
waterproof and warm.
6. Wearing the right size snowshoe will
yield the best experience. Snowshoes are sized according to weight, with
snow depth as a secondary factor.
Most beginning and
intermediate trompers should choose recreational or trekking snowshoes.
Both have good flotation and a rounded tail for better stability, and
many are adjustable for varied conditions. The more snow there is, the
more surface area you want; extending the tails will give you extra
Backcountry models are burlier, feature a heavier-duty
crampon, and have a larger footprint—overkill for beginners. Also stay
away from racing models, unless you plan on trail running.
Don’t forget the cocoa! This is the best advice I can give you. You’ll
be ready for a steaming cup once you reach your destination.
You’ll want to conserve heat when you do take a break, so bring
something to sit on. It’s always a good idea to carry foam pads in case
of injury, but if you’ll be out for more than an hour, consider adding
lightweight camp chairs.
9. Always bring the 10 essentials—always,
whatever the season. As a reminder, that’s navigation, sun protection,
insulation, illumination, first aid, fire, nutrition, hydration,
emergency shelter, and tools.
10. Take heed, parents of
toddlers: Snowshoeing can be hard on those newly able to walk. To avoid
breakdowns, wait until the kids are on solid feet before attempting to
The great news is there are many ways for little ones
to enjoy snowshoeing, even if they’re too small to try it themselves.
Some families strap the kids into a baby backpack, but if you’re
sticking to relatively smooth, low-grade trails, a converted bike
trailer works beautifully. You can also make your own winter kid
trailer. Popular in Scandinavia for centuries, these are known as
“pulks” or “pulkas.”