During the depths of winter, there’s nothing better than time spent outdoors with the family to cure cabin fever and limber up the body and mind. Skating and sledding are a load of fun, but if you’re ready to try a new cold-weather adventure, have a look at some of the out-of-the-ordinary suggestions below. This winter, it’s all about getting outside, playing, and moving!
Played as a demonstration sport in the 1953 Winter Olympics, bandy melds elements of soccer and ice hockey to create one awesome game. It takes place on an ice surface the size of a football field, and skaters use a bandy stick (that closely resembles a field hockey stick) and ball instead of a puck to try and score on the stickless goalkeeper through two 45-minute halves. If you’re looking to try something a bit different than regular ol’ hockey, use a ball next time you hit the rink and see how playing in nets feels without a stick! Visit the Federation of International Bandy’s site to learn more about the sport and how to get involved.
Part cross-country skiing, part sledding, and 100% fun, skijoring derives from the Norwegian word skikjøring, a rough translation of “ski driving.” At its most basic, skijor is simply skiing while being pulled by one or several dogs, or depending on where you live, a horse! Connected by a quick-release harness and towline or lead, your animal partner runs through the snow, helping propel the skier behind them. If you don’t have dogs with a desire to run and pull, try using a fat bike to pull your skiers! It’s a great workout and lesson in balance and coordination for everyone. Some provincial parks including Ontario’s Algonquin and Cooking Lake-Blackfoot in Alberta allow dog skijoring on some of their trails, but be sure to check before heading out. You can also visit Skijor Canada to find out more about equestrian skijoring.
3. Snow tagging
The whole outdoors is your canvas while creating larger-than-life drawings in the snow. Using freshly fallen snow and snowshoes, artists of all ages carefully stomp out elaborate designs, uplifting messages, or simple drawings. Practice with a GPS or compass to plot out your creation, and use the power of your feet to “draw” in the snow. If you don’t have a safely frozen lake or other huge space nearby, visit a nearby park, schoolyard, or even your backyard. Just get out there and get moving! For extra fun, bring a few spray bottles filled with food colouring to add some pizazz to the final design. Once you’re done, hike to a nearby high point to admire the results have a hot chocolate break to reward all that hard work.
Enjoyed by outdoor lovers of all ages, opportunities to try kicksledding have been popping up in municipal parks, hotels, and at outdoor centres across the country. A versatile sport, these scooters for snow are available in a range of sizes and styles, and are easy to operate. Users develop a wide range of muscles—especially the torso and leg muscles—and enjoy a cardio workout while using one leg to propel themselves forward on the sleds’ runners. Riders can adjust their speed, as well as take a break and walk with the sled. Some models have a seat where tuckered-out toddlers can hop on for a ride. Outfitted with specialized seats, these sleds also allow those with mobility issues to be fully included in outdoor adventures.
5. Ice biking
If you’re not too sure about skating but still want to join friends on the ice for an invigorating outing, try out an ice bike. Available in different sizes, single-speed ice bikes offer a stable base on which riders can pedal around on the ice as though they’re riding a traditional bicycle. Ice bikes were first introduced to Canada in December 2020 at Bowness Park in Calgary and are available again this year! Visit the city’s site to learn more about this unique activity.
Skiing meets sledding with the fun Yooner, a ski-bob/sled combo with a seat 20 cm above the ground, a single ski underneath, and a shock absorber to help cushion your tush over those random bumps. With a Yooner, you’ll develop your balance and coordination while cruising down the hills. Light and easy to handle, the Yooner allows riders to sculpt through the snow as if they’re skiing. It’s a new sport to Canada, and you can try it out at Mont Sutton in Quebec’s Eastern Townships or see if it’s at a hill near you.
7. Eisstockschießen (ice stock sport)
Described as a mix between bocce and curling, Eisstockschießen traces its roots to Scandinavia and has been played for over 600 years, primarily in Germany and Austria. Now, it’s growing in Canada and the U.S. On ice, players slide a stock (a stone with a vertical handle) along the ice and aim for a target called the daube that moves when it’s hit. A game has six rounds and the team with stocks closest to the target earns points to win. Competitions include team, target, and distance competitions. The sport is inclusive of all ages and abilities and requires strength, accuracy, and concentration. Entire families can play together and special stones are available so that the fun can continue in summer. For more on the sport in Canada, visit the Canadian Ice-Stock Federation.
If you’re not too keen on being pulled along while strapped to skis, why not try canicross (canine + cross country)? It’ll have you running or jogging with one or more dogs. The main difference between canicross and simply running with your dog is that runner and dog are attached together by a special harness and you run together as a team, with the runner calling out directions from behind. Running with a canine friend can also encourage children who aren’t used to running outdoors in winter to give it a go—and it encourages agility and endurance. If your dog loves to run, going out together can be a great way for kids and families to enjoy the outdoors together while travelling snow-covered trails. To learn more about the sport, look for dog running groups that offer classes or organized runs, or find races that include children and family routes.
9. Ice climbing
If you already like rock climbing and are looking for an exciting winter sport to get into, chances are ice climbing is your next step. Pickaxes and crampons aid in ascending frozen waterfalls and ice walls in beautiful settings, requiring concentration and strength. Climbing is generally best for tweens and older, and it’s a good idea to start with experienced climbers who will guide beginners in using the equipment and finding the best routes. Find ice climbing locations in Jasper or Banff, at Montreal’s Jean-Drapeau Park, in Muskoka, or do a quick Google search to find an outdoor centre that offers ice climbing near you.
This uniquely Canadian game was invented in 2017 by Liz Wreford and Leanne Muir and first played at The Forks in Winnipeg. In crokicurl, traditional curling and the nostalgic wooden board game crokinole are combined into a larger-than-life board on an outdoor rink. Players take turns throwing junior-weight curling rocks to the centre of the circular or octagonal rink, with the coloured rings awarding different points. Since its introduction, the game has been brought to parks, public squares, and backyards from Saskatoon to Guelph, Moose Jaw to Dawson City, and spread to towns in the US. Try making your own mini version by using jugs of frozen coloured water as rocks on DIY rinks, or suggest your own city build one for the community. As well as being a fun new activity, you’ll all benefit from increased agility and strength as you lunge, slide, and swing.
Snow-covered skate parks don’t mean you have to stop riding. This winter was the first time our family heard about snowskating, and after getting one under the Christmas tree, our 13-year-old has been having a blast as he tests out his balance and coordination on the neighbourhood slopes. A hybrid of snowboarding, surfing, and skateboarding, snow skates have no wheels or bindings and are ridden with the feet completely free. Some styles have a single ski-like board mounted underneath a foam covered top board, while others are a single piece with a grooved bottom. Whether you’re using this on a gentle slope or trying out ollies, it’s an awesome winter sport for skateboarders or those looking for a unique way to get active. You can find the boards at skate and snow shops, or try making your own!
12. Winter disc golf
Snow on the ground doesn’t mean that the disc golf courses are closed. In fact, many towns and community centres encourage users to practice the sport year-round and lend out discs at municipal parks, provincial parks, and outdoor centres. No experience is needed to play “frisbee golf,” and instructions and tips can be found online or on signs posted at courses. In the winter, you’ll get tons of exercise throwing and walking around the course and it’s a super fun activity to play with the whole family. If there’s no official course near you, purchase an inexpensive frisbee and set up baskets or buckets outside to create your own targets.
Is there an unusual winter activity that your family loves? Let us know in the comments!