Wintertime is playtime!

When winter hits, it’s tempting to snuggle up indoors with the kids. But cozying up inside is even more rewarding after some outdoor fun with the family. And there’s no shortage of options these days.

Canadian winters are long, cold, snowy – and fun! Say what?    Seriously - the season goes by a lot faster when you embrace it! Sure, it takes longer to get everyone bundled up, but the rewards can be awesome. So get out there and make the most of our “Great White North”!

Time-tested classics

Winter sports run the gamut from bare-bones simple to expensive high-tech. But a little bit of snow, an eager kid or two, some basic sliding gear, and a city park with a hill are all you need for some old-fashioned sledding fun.

Ice skating is an obvious choice in the country that invented ice hockey – and kind of rules in speed and figure skating. There’s not a place in Canada where you can’t find a neighbourhood outdoor rink, local arena or pond – not to mention Ottawa’s fabulous Rideau Canal. Regardless, today’s skates are a lot warmer and more comfortable than earlier ones, and rentals are widely available.

Snowshoeing has had a major comeback lately. This inexpensive activity is easy to learn, and it’s a great way to explore your winter surroundings at a family-friendly pace. Rentals are affordable and easily found, and you can snowshoe pretty much anywhere that there’s snow!

Downhill skiing or snowboarding are perfect options if you’re looking for something a little faster-paced. Kids love the excitement and are quick to develop some skills with basic instruction. Take advantage of the lesson/rental packages available at all ski areas to give these sports a try.

Cross-country skiing combines the best of snowshoeing and alpine skiing in a sport that lets you cover lots of ground as you glide quietly along winding forest trails or through urban parks in lots of Canadian cities. Cross-country ski centres also offer lesson/rental packages to get you started. And they’re attracting more kids than ever, thanks to the exploits of athletes like Alex Harvey.

In the mood for something different?

Classic winter sports aren’t the only game in town when winter rolls around. For a different take on winter, introduce your kids to these cool activities:

Fat biking burst onto the scene a few years ago. Fat bikes are essentially stripped-down mountain bikes with extra-wide rims, simplified gears, and super-fat knobby tires that float on snowy surfaces. Older kids and teens will love tackling snow-covered trails on these rugged machines, now available for rent at mountain biking and cross-country centres.

Hok skiing or ski shoeing originated in Siberia. Hok skis are short and wide and have climbing skins for going uphill. Highly manoeuvrable, they glide like cross-country skis on flat terrain, and let you ski down through forest glades and obstacle-ridden wooded terrain.

Telemark skiing is another sport that comes from an ancient tradition. Best suited for experienced skiers, it’s a graceful mix of Nordic and alpine skiing that’s beautiful to watch and magical to do.

As you can see, there are plenty of great reasons for you and your family to get out and enjoy winter. So take your pick, get started, and enjoy!