Do you like hiking with your mini? Well in winter you can do your usual hikes, and even others, in the snow on snowshoes!
Yes, let your little one(s) discover snowshoeing and nature. We created this little guide to snowshoeing with children just for you!
It is possible to do it with baby
If you have a carry backpack or a stable sled, snowshoeing is a good way to get him some fresh air. Unlike cross-country skiing, if you are able to walk with baby carried on your back, you will also be able to do it on snowshoes.
It's a great cardiovascular exercise for winter breathing!
If you enjoy walking and are looking for a way to stay in shape even when there is snow, snowshoeing is a good low-impact aerobic exercise. If you are a fan of hiking and running, snowshoeing allows you to extend your season. The activity also allows you to enjoy the beautiful landscapes and the calm in the areas that could be crowded in summer.
It's a nice social activity
All ages and levels can share in this fun.
If the price of gear and tickets for downhill skiing and snowboarding makes you want to slow down a bit, snowshoeing is very affordable. Equipment includes snowshoes and appropriate attire; poles are sometimes helpful, but not required. You can always try before you buy. Retractable poles are great so you can attach them to your bag if you're not using them.
This sport requires little technique
There are few outdoor activities that are so friendly to beginner children. If you plan to venture off the beginner trails, you will need to learn how to climb and descend hills, cross slopes, use your poles, get up after falling in the snow.
They are carried on the back in a baby carrier such as a hiking bag with a rigid frame or pull them in a sled. Hiking bags suitable for transporting babies allow you to store the essentials that you bring during the activity and also protect your baby from the wind with the sun visor and the removable canvas.
2 to 4 years
From the age of 2, a child should be able to walk with snowshoes over small distances. Walking in the snow requires a bit more energy. Keep in mind that he will walk a little shorter than without snowshoes. This is a great activity to help them develop their balance!
Over 4 years
Around the age of 4, children will generally be able to snowshoe for between 1 and 2 hours on not too rough terrain. Obviously, the duration of your snowshoe hikes will depend on his ability to walk. Remember to take frequent breaks! If the terrain is uneven, consider reducing the hiking time.
Tip 1: It usually takes twice as long to do a distance on snowshoes than on foot. Then factor that into your hiking distance and duration with your child. If he walks in general 15 minutes, cut in half in snowshoe: a small 7-8 minutes.
Tip 2: If you plan to snowshoe in powder snow, your child will expend a lot more energy than on a well-packed trail. The powder is great, but they'll be a lot shorter so plan ahead! Compacted trails are therefore recommended for 2 to 4 years old.
They are dressed with the principles of multi-layer and according to the temperature. If it is not too cold, 2 layers may be sufficient. If it is very cold, 3 layers are generally recommended.
Since we are transporting them, they must be warm. So we dress them according to the outside temperature + 1 layer. Toque, hood, warm polar-type sweater, coat (wind), mittens, snow pants, boots and warm socks, in addition to blankets and sleeping bag if they are in a sled. A fur coat at the bottom of the sled will make a very good insulator!
Useful article : Living winter with baby
3 years and more
On their snowshoes they will walk and expend some energy and warm up. Dressing them in a layer is therefore important to keep them dry and comfortable.
- Coat: A windproof winter coat is all they need (when worn over long underwear). Very insulated jackets (down type) are generally too warm for snowshoeing any distance, especially if there is sloping terrain.
- Pant :
- Ideally, we opt for pants made of synthetic material with a waterproof fabric and "soft shell" on the outside. They're stretchy enough to allow movement, but aren't too baggy.
- Otherwise, they can be put on long, combination-type underwear under light, waterproof and breathable double-lined pants. Lightly insulated children's ski pants work well, but can get too hot on a long snowshoeing adventure. Avoid jeans and other cotton pants, because once wet, they take a long time to dry and your little wood runners will then be cold.
- Long Underwear (dry layer): Even otherwise, they can be put on long, combination-type underwear under light, waterproof and breathable double-lined pants. Lightly insulated children's ski pants work well, but can get too hot on a long snowshoeing adventure. Avoid jeans and other cotton pants, because once wet, they take a long time to dry and your little wood runners will then be cold. For very cold conditions, place a light base layer next to the skin. Choose wool or synthetic fabrics that wick away moisture and dry quickly (Warning: cotton gets cold when wet).
- Insulation layer to put in the backpack: if your excursion includes a lunch break or a snack, bring a woolen sweater, a fleece jacket or a light down coat. Your child does not need this layer for walking, but will appreciate its warmth during breaks.
- Socks: Choose wool socks or synthetic fibers (again, no cotton). Make sure they fit in the child's boots or shoes. Hiking socks that extend just above the calf work well, as use downhill ski socks. Light padding under the foot and in the front of the ankles and shins helps cushion young feet and ankles.
- Gloves and mittens: Opt for a pair of synthetic or woolen gloves or mittens. If the palms are reinforced, they will help with durability and water resistance. For cool days, remember that mittens are warmer than gloves. If necessary, add small fleece gloves inside your mitten for very cold and humid conditions.
Tip: If your child tends to get hot, bring a 2nd pair of gloves/mittens and socks if their pair gets wet.
- Toque : a light touque made of wool or synthetic is ideal in cold weather and for snack breaks. Add your hood when the wind is too strong or when you take a break. The balaclava worn under the ski helmet is a good option for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Ideas: You can bring a small backpack for your child. Even the youngest can carry a bag with an extra jacket, a water bottle and a snack. Make sure the bag fits snugly - the best ones are those with padded shoulder straps and, for older kids, a light belt and sternum strap. For long trips, bring a small insulated bottle filled with hot chocolate!
- It's your first time and don't know if he'll like it.
- Borrow from friends if possible.
- SEPAQ parks rent snowshoeing and cross-country skiing equipment free of charge for children 17 and under. Admission is also free for them! But you have to book. https://www.sepaq.com/quoi-faire/raquette-sentiers.dot
- Several large urban centers offer snowshoe rental for children, in some cases it's free, but you have to check. On the territory of the city of Montreal it's free and you have to reserve. https://montreal.ca/articles/ou-louer-ou-emprunter-de-lequipement-cet-hiver-montreal-9456
- For a non-exhaustive list of rental centers by region, visit our article on hiking in nature close to home.
- You've done it before, they like it, and you know you'll do it a few times in the next few years (one to four years).
- If you have more than one child; buy a pair for the oldest and he'll pass them on to the youngest in a few years.
Size of kids' snowshoes
Kids snowshoes are often one size fits all and depend on the weight of the child. The bindings are easily adjustable and adapt to several types of shoes (and growing feet).
Tip: For a child who weighs more than 80-90 pounds (about 36 kg), it is best to choose a snow shoe designed for women. They are lighter, narrower and shorter than standard unisex snowshoe and because they use less material they are also less expensive.
Tip: When fitting the binding to the shoe or boot, make sure the straps are snug, but not so tight that they impede blood flow.
- Boots: Most snowshoe bindings fit everything from walking shoes to ski boots, but your best bet will be lightweight, insulated winter boots with good ankle flex. Hiking boots or hiking shoes also work, especially if they have waterproof or water-resistant toes.
- Poles: These are not necessary, but they make it easier to move over unpredictable terrain. Children can use downhill ski poles or hiking poles. For an optimal fit: the arms are at a 90 degree angle when holding the handle. Big baskets on the end of the stick are best because they don't sink as far into the snow and provide a bigger platform for balance. Most stores rent poles along with the racquets. If you're buying poles for kids, consider ones with adjustable shafts so they can be lengthened as your child grows. ;)
Snowshoeing is easy to start
Generally, no lesson is necessary - if you can walk, you can snowshoe. It is best to learn on flat ground. Many ski resorts have specific snowshoe trails that follow snow-covered roads. Golf courses in snowy regions often cater to snowshoers (and cross-country skiers).
Consider joining a group.
You and your child can expand your horizons by exploring new paths, making new friends and refining your technique.
Snowshoes have a direction
Snowshoes are designed to move forward, not backward. If you back up, the pointy tail sinks into the snow, which usually results in a fall. Instead of backing up, turn around.
Practice at home
Have your child put on and take off the snowshoes at home (walking on the grass is good). Practice moving forward and turning around. Kids often like to mimic a penguin (a slightly wider than normal stance) to accommodate shoe width.
Try some hills
Snowshoes must be laid flat with each stride. Once a child can walk comfortably on level ground, choose a short trail (1 or 2 km) with hills to climb.
Avoid cross-country ski trails
Many snowshoe trails share the same trails as cross-country skiers. Always be careful not to walk on the cross-country ski trails.
It all depends on their age and temperature!
If it's cold, bring
- a backpack to bring extra things or put a layer of clothing in it if it's too hot.
- an extra pair of stockings.
- an extra pair of gloves or mitts if the first one gets wet.
- a scarf, neck warmer and extra toque.
- a snack or meal your child will love.
- a water bottle.
- a hot beverage in a thermos.
- the trail map if available.
- reusable hand warmers like Hot Poc or disposable if needed.
- an insulating blanket (in my first aid kit) in case of hypothermia on longer hikes.
For babies and toddlers
Also remember to bring:
- Diaper change necessities.
- Their food/milk.
- A sled: even if it is empty when you leave, it may be practical to bring your mini back. Been there, done that! ;)
The beauty of snowshoeing is that you can go almost anywhere! We also have a nice list of parks close to home for hikes year-round in most regions of Quebec.
0 - 2 years
Since you are carrying them, it is up to you to plan how far you are able to snowshoe with your child on a sled or on your back.
Flat ground or without a steep slope will be easier and more pleasant for them. And for you!
- Go to the park near you or to nearby golf courses
- Try to find a course that will be interesting for your child; following a small river, crossing a small bridge, and seeing interesting things like following animal tracks make the experience more positive than just walking in a field!
4 years and more
The possibilities multiply around the age of 4. We can start to go further and longer:
- Hills and mountains, refuges…
- Fluffy snow or hard packed trail, it'll depend on your child's attitude that day.
- Go to places where you will have a choice of trails. That way, we adjust the choice of trail according to the attitude and energy of the troops!
- You can even let them choose the path by explaining to them how long it will take them to walk and the hills or mountains to do. If they balk along the way, it was their informed choice!
Regional, provincial parks and walking clubs will be the favorite places to keep them interested!