It’s common in Nordic countries for parents to put their toddlers, swaddled in a pram, outside for their noontime nap, even in the chill of winter. The thinking goes that exposure to cold outside air can stave off wintertime colds, in addition to getting little ones accustomed to wintertime temps.
Even if parents here aren’t yet willing to embrace the Nordic nap system, there’s no doubt that a little wintertime fresh air is good for everyone. But what to do when a parent doesn’t ski or a child is too young to learn? Look to another northern clime invention: the snowshoe. Easy to operate and designed for carrying loads over winter snow and ice, snowshoes seem tailor-made for toddler transport.
The key, of course, is keeping warm. Small children do not regulate their body temperatures as well as adults, so they can go from comfortable to chilled more quickly; little noses and cheeks are especially susceptible. The solution: lots of layers – examine your own layering system and add one for children.
Baby carriers that place the child close to the carrier’s body are ideal for wintertime trekking. In fact, parents may find themselves snowshoeing in shirtsleeves with a tiny infant furnace strapped on the front. Kid carrier backpacks (for example, the Deuter Kid Comfort series) accommodate larger children, up to forty or so pounds, allowing them to take in the snowy scenery without tiring. Keep in mind that while you’re working up a sweat, your child is suspended stationary in the air; layer accordingly. Finally, when selecting snowshoes for kid carrying, be sure to factor in the added weight of your child cargo. Larger snowshoes or ones with clip-on tails will help keep you from sinking too deep.
For a good introduction to snowshoeing with little ones, explore the Burping Brook Basin trail system at Mount Spokane State Park. A thick forest of western redcedar and hemlock shields snowshoers from biting winter winds, and a mellow grade eases the work of towing a toddler. From the Lower Loop Road Sno-Park, mid-way up the road to Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park, schuss on Mount Kit Carson Loop Road 1.3 miles to Smith Gap, where there is a new snowshoe warming hut that makes for an excellent place to take a break and warm up. From the loop road, several singletrack snowshoe trails also branch off and allow for a variety of snowshoe loops. Trails with no fixed destination can also lend themselves well to snowshoe treks with kids: freed of the obligation to get a certain distance, families can focus on enjoying the scenery around them.
Download a free printable map and snowshoe brochure for Mount Spokane State Park at www.mountspokane.org. A Snowpark permit is required, as well as a Discover Pass if you only purchase a day-sue Snowpark permit. //