By Sarah Murdock, Yukon Charlie’s Trailblazer and author of the North Country Littles adventure blog.
Writing this article, I have had to really pay attention when we go out to what it is that we do to make our adventures possible (I know, what a crazy concept!) So often, I just get in the zone that I don’t really stop to think about the details of it all. It was so fun to go out with a new set of eyes, almost like I was a spectator trying to take it all in. By the end of our walk I was left with some great insight and tips for how to make snowshoeing a family affair!
First tip (and bear with me): Set your standards low
This is something that we try to do with every outing, but especially with snowshoeing. If you set your sights on it being a work out or that you will hike 5 miles out to some awesome frozen waterfall you will, more likely than not, be let down. When we go out we know that we are going to go s.l.o.w. and we are not really going to get very far. The really awesome thing about this though is that we are able to really take in all that is around us and we are able to just be in the moment. Also remember to start at the skill level your kids are currently in. It is so easy to see other people’s adventure and think that is the only way to do snowshoeing the “right” way. The reality is we all have to start at the beginning.
Tip two: Let your kids lead
We make a point to let either our 5 or 3 year old lead. This helps them feel in control of not only where we go but also the pace for the hike. It is so easy to go too fast without even knowing it. I also love the confidence leading gives them. I am all for letting my kids take charge and make decisions when we are out on the trail (as long as they won’t lead to harm) I truly believe that it will help them be leaders in the future and be able to take charge of their own lives when the time comes.
Tip three: Be prepared, be prepared, be prepared
Being prepared looks different for every family. For us, being prepared means having extra carriers, knowing that at any given point we will be carrying extra snowshoes, poles, or even kids. It also means SNACKS. But really, who doesn’t love a snack break every 20 minutes! One way everyone should prepare is knowing the trail you are going on before you set out. For kids a flat short trail is best.
Tip four: Mix it up
In our experience kids are not super jazzed about snowshoeing for an hour straight. We make sure that half way on every hike we stop for either a lunch break, game, or to just take the snowshoes off and run around in the snow. On our most recent trip we made a tunnel be out half way point. Our girls have a weird obsession with going in tunnels and screaming as loud as they can. I’m pretty sure they feel like they have a super power when they do it. This was the perfect way to break up our walk and get them re-energized for the walk back. If you have the time setting up a hammock to enjoy your surrounding for a bit is always an amazing way to break up a hike.
Tip five: Always end on a good note
I really think this is pretty universal no matter what you are doing, but we make sure that each snowshoeing trip ends on a high note. Sometimes by the time we get back to the car they are pretty worn out, if this is the case we have them take their snowshoes off and we have a snowball fight, or we make snow angels. Honestly sometimes it even takes me just making a fool of myself or cracking some weird immature joke to get them all laughing. They also love looking back on pictures from the hike so they can see what they just accomplished.
Q: What are good snowshoes trails around Anchorage Alaska for little ones?
A: We love anything that is flat, and not too long. I would look for something that is either a loop or has a good turn around point. For Anchorage/Mat-Su folks I LOVE the North Fork trail in Eagle River. It is only .5 miles one way to a frozen river and it is very flat. It is the perfect starter trail for little ones!
Q: Is it expensive to snowshoes with kids who have rapidly growing feet?
A: NO! It is actually so awesome, my girls’ shoe sizes range from 7-12 they all share snowshoes and I know they will be able to wear them for years to come. I have been really impressed with the wide range in shoe sizes the Yukon Charlie’s snowshoes accommodate! To make it even easier for parents they have created a binding that is very easy to change size, even mid hike. This makes sharing snowshoes so easy and stress free!
Q: How old do kids need to be to snowshoe?
A: Our youngest is turning 2 next month and she snowshoes with us. She does not make it very far but every time we go out we give her the chance to walk in them. Our middle daughter is 3.5 years and she keeps right up with us. I would say any time after 3 you can potentially have a kid that will go the whole time. Honestly though it is really up to the kid, what they are comfortable with, and where their stamina level is at. The main thing is to give them a chance each time you go out and encourage them to go a little farther!
Q: Is cross country skiing better than snowshoeing?
A: That is a tough one, they are so different and I feel like they are equally beneficial. My kids get less tangled up in snowshoes than they do in skis but some days they just prefer skiing to snowshoeing. For really young one (2 years and under) I would say skiing would be easier because they are not as wide as snowshoes, but for older littles I think it has a lot to do with personal preference. My main suggestions would be to be flexible and encourage your kids with both activities so they can find what they are passionate about. Snowshoeing is definitely much less expensive than skiing and they can wear their same snowshoes year after year unlike skis that you constantly have to up in size.
Q: What tips do I have for babywearing and snowshoeing?
A: It is just like normal hiking and babywearing! Really! Size up on your snowshoe so that is will accommodate the added weight, but really, other than that there isn’t a difference than just normal hiking. I have worn both my 3 year old and my 2 year old while snowshoeing and it was really fun.
Q: Size of snowshoes for little kids/toddlers?
A: We use the Yukon Charlie’s Aluminum and the Yukon Charlie’s Youth Molded. Both work great for all three of our girls. I think you will have the best luck with waiting until your kid wears at least a 7 in winter boots. They are rated to support a child up to 100 lbs, so as long as we take care of our shoes my girls will be able to wear their same shoes for years and years to come!
Last year we used a pair of Tubbs snowshoes with our oldest and it was terrible! She hated them and wouldn’t walk more than 10 steps at a time. This was when she was 4 years old. Our Yukon Charlie’s snowshoes have been a completely different and much more positive experience for us! They are lighter, easier to put on/adjust, and our daughters are excited to go snowshoeing. If you have tried snowshoeing with young kids before and have not had success give the Yukon Charlie’s Youth snowshoes a try,
I am genuinely confident that you will have a much better experience.