Guest Post: Alternative Snowsports

These days the snowsports world doesn’t begin and end with skiing and snowboarding.

There are plenty of other fun and active winter sports to get involved with.

Here are just a few of the possibilities:


Going for a walk with a pair of snowshoes on your feet does call for some skill but it doesn’t take long for most people to get the hang of it, and snowshoeing is definitely less scary than downhill skiing. The idea is that the wide, lightweight snowshoe distributes your weight over a greater area so you don’t break the crust and sink into the snow.

A good pair of snowshoes will let you walk easy hiking trails even when they’re covered in deep snow. They can take you to your favourite summer beauty spots and let you see them in a whole new light. Smaller kids models are available too, so the whole family can get out and go snowshoeing.

Winter Hiking

Most of us like to take a walk in the snowy streets from time to time. Going up into the hills or the mountains in winter may seem like a very different proposition and it really is. However, with the right equipment and the right instruction it can be tremendously rewarding. There is nothing like reaching the summit of your first snowy peak and seeing a winter mountain panorama laid out beneath you. It’s worth the hard work- the usual crowds vanish from the peaks in the winter and the extra difficulties only add to the sense of achievement.

Winter hiking is a lot more dangerous than summer hiking- that’s very true- but it’s also a lot more accessible than many people imagine. Qualified guides operate in almost every mountain area and they’re usually more than happy to take beginners with a basic level of fitness. You’ll almost certainly learn a great deal on your first outing with a guide, and you’ll probably also see sights most people only dream of.


This one is for all the family. All you need is a gentle snowy slope and a plastic sled or toboggan. The best hills are big enough to get a good run in but also have a safe landing place at the bottom. Look for a curve that evens out towards the end and then rises slightly so the sled will slow down of its own accord. Sometimes you don’t need to go further than the local park. Now is the time to start spotting potential tobogganing spots, so keep an eye out before the snow starts in earnest. And remember, when the time does come to go sledding, don’t let the kids have all the fun!

Cross Country Skiing

Although it’s less glamorous than downhill skiing, the cross country variety has plenty of advantages. It’s slower and more controlled (which means fewer knee injuries and serious falls), there are almost always fewer people around, and the whole family can stay together far more easily than they could on a groomed slope. Children and nervous adults run less chance of collision with other skiers too. It’s also quiet, and cross country or XC skiers are far more likely to run into all kinds of winter wildlife.

Many of the popular ski and snowboard resorts also have waymarked XC trails for those who feel like taking the less adrenaline-packed route. It’s a good idea to hire special cross country skis and there are a few extra techniques to learn but whether you can downhill ski already or not, it’s always worth spending at least one day of a snowy vacation going cross country.

Jess Spate is an outdoor sports enthusiast at any time of year. She writes for Appalachian Outdoors, a leading provider of ski gear and other snowsports equipment.

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