Montana is chalked full of outdoor fun in winter. Many of us Mamas dream of skiing year round, but there are options for every budget and level of adventure. With some warm layers and a few pieces of additional gear, there are a plethora of wondrous ways to enjoy the outdoors as a family in the winter. Below is a list of a ten of our family’s favorite ways to enjoy the snowy season.
Neighborhood Activities. For most days of the week, winter play is no further than the backyard. Build or make something out of snow. Snow forts, snow angels, mazes, fairy hideouts, snow is a great building material and artistic medium. The sometimes even the local playground has an extra snowy level of fun this time of year, so get outside and invite your friends to play.
Sledding. I don’t think there is a more universally-adored winter activity. All you need is an inexpensive sled or saucer, and our Montana backyard is a sledding paradise! We found some good resources for the best sled hills in Bozeman, Missoula, Flathead area, Billings, and Helena. What about in your area?
Skating. One of my favorite winter memories from my childhood is skating on our neighborhood pond. Skates are surprisingly affordable at second hand sports stores and free ice is available at many local parks. Are you kids extra adventurous? Skate the ‘wild ice’ of Montana’s lakes, ponds, lagoons or beaver-dammed side channels of the river — it’s an experience you won’t forget!
Hot Springs. Soaking in warm water under lightly falling snow is absolutely dreamy. In our area we have both pool-like and natural hot springs that are free to enter. If you are in it for easy, pay a few bucks for the pool experience and your kids are guaranteed to love it. We’ve had a few tearful ¼ mile dashes back to the car after a soak in the Boiling River in Yellowstone National Park. Totally worth it…even with the chilly tiny human sprint!
Skiing. There are several options for downhill skiing in Montana, from mega-resorts to local ski hills. Resorts do a great job catering to families, and offer lessons and programs to get your wee ones begging to ski the trees and gullies. Unlike biking or hiking it is one of the only activities that after a few lessons, almost everyone can ski the same speed. One of my favorite memories from when my kids were small was the first time that all three kids — then 2, 5 and 7 — were skiing side-by-side down a groomer.
Snow Hike or Snowshoeing. The wilds are extra magical in winter. Keep your expectations about reaching the ‘destination’ low, short legs with tiny boots or pint-sized snowshoes get tired quickly traipsing through deep snow. Instead, try to find and identify tracks, suck on icicles, and slide on frozen waterfalls. Focus on observation and as with any outdoor activity with kids — play!
Winter Picnic. The last few years my family started a new Christmas tradition, the snow picnic! We pack out some soup, hot chocolate, warm adult beverages, head to a local trailhead and make a fire. Even my 90-year old grandmother joins in on the fun. Get super bundled — and hand and foot warmers are especially helpful in those shady cold creek bottoms.
Cross Country Skiing. As our kids have gotten older, we love country skiing more and more every year. The equipment is affordable, the trails are quiet, we all get exercise, and its easier to include friends. Some of our favorite family ski trips have been combined with an overnight stay in a nearby U.S. Forest Service cabin.
Ice Fishing. What I once thought of as an oddity of my husband’s upbringing in the midwest, ice fishing is actually a super fun family activity. Each winter, thousands of lucky Montana kids get to participate in Fish Wildlife & Parks Hooked on Fishing program and go ice fishing with their classmates. Your family will love it too, all you need is an auger, scoop to remove the ice chips, simple rod, lure, and bait to entice the fish. Dress the kids in their warmest gear, make hot chocolate and coffee and head to the nearest lake or reservoir. The fish are tastier this time of the year too!
Hybrid Adventures. If everyone in your family, or group of friends does not have the gear necessary for a particular outdoor activity, get creative! Some of my most favorite ‘adventures’ are random ones. Pulling kids on skis with fat bikes, rolling and sliding on our stomachs down a windswept hill, renting a cabin with friends, playing tag in the snow. Like most things with kids, it’s always more fun when there are other families involved, so get outside, invite your friends, and have a winter adventure.
What is your favorite winter adventure? Post a photo on Facebook or Instagram, tag Montana Mountain Mamas and we will send the first 10 photos a NoSo Puffy Patch for free!