Seeking Winter Adventure

This post originally appeared on our outdoors blog Outsideways.

It's January right now and it's cold and stormy. The snow makes hiking tricky but before Christmas we bought crampons for the kids so we can at least hike in ice and snow.

The cold is harder to work with. As long as we stay moving and are dressed enough we stay warm. But trudging up an icy, cold mountain in layers of snow gear (can you hear the swish, swish of the kid's snow pants) for a less than spectacular view, seeing as you can't get as far as fast during winter months, is not very motivating right now. We want to have some winter fun! We want to play in the snow not just trudge through it.

And then there's the storms which happen with regular occurrence, where did you think all this snow comes from? They make driving difficult and so we don't want to venture too far from home.

Hum.. what to do? We're considering lots of options. Skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, sledding, back country sledding. But right now we keep running up against the brick wall of accessibility and finances. We value family activity and are not afraid to invest in gear, but gear for five requires some creative budgeting. And whatever we choose needs to be something we can do often.

Maybe we're being too picky, maybe we're spoiled after our spring, summer and fall in Maine's beautiful mountains. It just seems that the barrier to entry for snow activities in the mountains is a lot higher than it is for summer.

After writing this I'm thinking maybe we need to diversify, but of course only in the inexpensive stuff. We can't diversify into snowboarding, downhill skiing and cross country. But maybe local sledding, snowshoeing and a trip to the mountains now and then to hike with crampons. For certain, whatever we do it needs to be fun, outdoors, accessible (in terms of time and distance), affordable and something we all can do - together.

Some options we have considered:

  • Cross country skiing, although cheaper than other skiing options requires fields and well snowed open places, not to mention a roof rack, something we've avoided so far. We are city folk and there are not too many open fields close by. Although we don't mind driving to the mountains to hike, driving the county looking for open places to ski lacks the "mountain" we like in our outdoor pursuits. Groomed trails are available, at a cost, and really where's the adventure in that?

  • Skating isn't an option since Damien can't wear skates due to feet that are large in all the wrong places. Custom skates aren't worth the investment for us when it's not something we want to do for hours every weekend.

  • Snowshoeing is a real possibility. The kids own snowshoes and we can borrow adult sizes from the college Damien works at and we did this a bit last winter. But our youngest tired easily (certainly can't be out for more than a couple hours) and if the snow isn't deep snowshoeing isn't worth the effort. If you can hike through the snow, why bother snowshoeing which requires more work? Something little ones don't appreciate in and of itself. Kids want to have fun and don't want to exercise for the sake of exercise, neither do I! Snowshoeing has potential but not as an every weekend, 5 hour trek.

  • Sledding the local hills is cheap and that's what we have been doing but after an hour or so your toes and fingers are cold and your kid's gear is starting to get wet. We like to fill up a whole day with activity not just an hour or so. Mind you, getting the gear on and off again at home can seem like an extra hour.

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