Whether you’re on the West Coast, where significant snow is finally blanketing the Sierras, or in the east and mid-west enduring blizzard conditions, it’s high time for some family fun in the snow. But you don’t have to be a serious skier or snowboarder to enjoy the fresh powder; here are some fun and athletic winter activities to get the whole family laughing and moving.
The popularity of tubing runs continues to soar, with new resorts and play areas opening and existing resorts adding more extensive tubing parks. In the Sierras, ski resorts like Northstar, Heavenly and Squaw Valley have groomed tubing hills. Some of the country’s most elaborate tubing extravaganzas include Colorado’s Winter Adventure Park, Utah’s Gorgoza Park (near Park City), and Minnesota’s Trapp Farm Tubing Hill. Many tubing parks are lighted at night, adding an extra thrill to the experience.
Another sport surging in popularity is ice hockey, with lessons and leagues available at most ice rinks. Teams like the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, and New York Rangers have begun to draw huge numbers of fans in recent years, many of whom want to learn to play themselves. To find hockey lessons in your area, call local rinks, or check with the home rink of your favorite team. For example, the Solar4America rink in San Jose, home of the Sharks, offers lessons for young and old and hosts the Sharks Ice adult hockey league.
If you love to hike, it’s time to try snowshoeing. The awkward clunky skates of yesteryear have been replaced by sleek, comfortable snowshoes that keep your feet high and dry atop the crust. And they’re lightweight enough that you can cover almost as much ground as you would on a day’s hike. When trying a new sport, it’s always best to start out by renting equipment; San Francisco’s Sports Basement offers affordable snowshoe rentals. When you’re ready to buy your own, REI’s snowshoe buying guide will steer you to the right pair.
Many seasonal ice rinks stay open into January or longer; San Francisco’s Union Square Ice Rink is open until January 15. And in colder regions, seasonal rinks like the one at Rockefeller Center stay open well into spring. So there is still plenty of time to get out there and work on your speed skating and snowplow stops. There are also many rinks that are open year round, such as the Yerba Buena ice rink, also in San Francisco, Atlanta’s Center Ice Arena and the Sky Rink at New York’s Chelsea Piers. Worth a special trip is Palo Alto’s Winter Lodge, the only permanent outdoor ice rink west of the Sierras.
From simple plastic disks to high-quality toboggans, there’s a sled for every purpose and a sled run for every level. Many ski resorts now have sledding areas and you can find designated snow play areas in many national parks and forests. When on a family mountain vacation, find informal sledding runs by asking the locals where they slide.