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Snowshoeing with kids

by Joanne Winters

Ottawa can be cold, and when you factor in the windchill it can be downright nasty!  Although the thought of hibernating indoors does sound very appealing we have had to find ways to keep ourselves active and have some fun outdoors in our frigid city.   

A few Christmases ago, before we had kids, I purchased snowshoes for myself and my husband. We lived in area with an open field nearby where we could go snowshoeing and enjoy the crisp cold air.  It was so beautiful being out there late at night, enjoying the star-filled sky as we trekked across the fields.    Now fast forward a few years… 2 kids and dog later, and we still enjoy it!   

When we first decided to take the kids out for a trek in the snow covered woods they were very excited.   We grabbed our snowshoes and a sled with a warm blanket, bundled ourselves up, packed a snack and headed to Mer Bleu.  The kids were so excited.  At first we stayed on the well established paths throughout the woods but then I decided to let the kids try out my snowshoes.  My daughter loved it – we strapped them on her boots and away she went.  She had no trouble going off the beaten path and staying above the fresh powder. My son also had a turn and away he went leading the way through the snow with ease.    Along the way we stopped to admire and feed many birds and explored the trails. If you bring bird seed with you and stay really calm the birds will come eat out of your hand. 

There are many opportunities to go out and snowshoe in Ottawa.  The National Capital Greenbelt offers a variety of trails to explore.  Also Gatineau Park offers 60 kilometers of trails for snowshoeing, ranging from easy to more challenging treks.  

A wonderful thing about snowshoeing is that it does not require a lot of equipment.  All you need is to dress for the weather and strap on some snowshoes.  If you want to give it a try and not invest in the snowshoes right away many places like Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), Trailhead and Gatineau Park do rent them.  I suggest calling ahead to check on the availability. 

The best conditions for snowshoeing are when there is about 10 centimeters of snow on the ground.  The more snow the more fun.  Snowshoes work on all types of snow and ice.  You also don’t need to head out very far for your first trek; you may just want to start in the backyard after a snow storm, your neighborhood park or any field nearby.    

So next time the weather office is calling for a dumping of 10 centimeters of snow, don’t just think about the snow blower or the shoveling, think of it as Mother Nature laying the base for an awesome family adventure!