Winter Adventures: Sledding and Snowshoeing

Winter Adventures: Sledding and Snowshoeing

Winter has settled over Northeast Ohio and is here to stay for quite some time. Even if it’s not your favorite season — after all, it’s the one that brings months of slippery roads, shoveling snow and frigid temperatures — it’s still a great time to get outdoors and have fun with your family. Besides, any excursion that ends with hot cocoa by a warm fire is bound to be a crowd-pleaser, right?

With just a few inches of snow, the area’s parks turn into a winter wonderland that abounds with adventure for parents and kids, from toddlers to teens. Take an old family favorite to a new location with our sledding hill suggestions, or try something new and have everyone strap on a pair of snowshoes. Either way, you can plan a fun family outing using this guide as inspiration.

Dress for Success

When it comes to winter comfort, focus on well-fitting, lightweight layers. Climbing a sledding hill repeatedly or snowshoeing across a snowy field are both cardio activities, so it’s important not to overdress (and overheat).

The experts at REI recommend a lightweight, water- and wind-resistant shell jacket to wear over a thermal top. When it comes to pants, ideal options feature a synthetic or wool material that’s brushed on the inside, with a tight water-repelling shell on the outside. Pants should be loose enough to allow movement, but not baggy. Long underwear layers should be lightweight and made of wool or synthetic fabrics that wick moisture and dry quickly (cotton gets cold when wet).

Choose socks made of wool or synthetic fibers and make sure they fit with the child’s boots or shoes. Hiking or ski socks are great options. A lightweight wool or synthetic hat that fits well is best for chilly weather. 

Go with a light pair of synthetic or wool gloves. Reinforced palms will help with durability and water resistance. For chilly days, note that mittens are warmer than gloves. For very cold, wet conditions, add insulating, waterproof/breathable shell gloves.

Sledding Safety

Akron Children’s Hospital stresses that while a family sledding trip is fun, it’s also important to stay safe as there is a risk of injury. It recommends the following tips:

-Use a sled that has brakes and can  be steered. 

-Wear a helmet (a winter sports helmet is best, but a bike helmet is better than none at all).

-Find a hill that is not too steep and has a long, flat area at the bottom so there is a place to glide to a stop.

-Avoid hills that end near streets, ponds, trees, fences or other hazards.

-Make sure the hill does not have bumps, rocks, poles or trees in the sledding path.

-Children ages 5 and younger should sled with an adult, and kids under 12 should be watched at all times.

-Sit face-forward on the sled with  feet facing downhill. Never go down the hill face-first and never stand on a sled.

-Go down the hill one at a time and with only one person per sled (except for adults with young kids).

-Keep arms and legs within the sled at all times.

-Walk up the side of the hill and leave the middle open for other sledders.

Snowshoeing 101

For a slower-paced winter adventure that allows for greater appreciation of the scenery, consider snowshoeing. Aside from the shoes themselves, all it takes is three or four inches of snow, warm clothes and a good pair of boots to explore the winter wonderland in a new way. 

If it’s your family’s first time, consider renting snowshoes from area park districts (more info below). If you’ve moved past the novice stage and your kids enjoy the activity, you may want to consider purchasing snowshoes for each family member. While this does require an investment, you can find a decent pair of snowshoes for roughly the same cost as a quality pair of boots. 

The best news is that kids shouldn’t outgrow their snowshoes for many seasons, since fitment is based on weight, not shoe size, and most youth snowshoes are one size fits all.

Snowshoe bindings are easily adjustable and accommodate multiple types of footwear, from sneakers to ski boots. REI recommends lightweight, insulated winter boots with good ankle flex. When fitting the binding on the shoe or boot, make sure the straps are snug, but not so tight that they interfere with circulation.

Once a child weighs more than 80 or 90 pounds, REI says the best bet is to choose a snowshoe designed for women, since they are lighter, narrower and shorter than standard unisex snowshoes.

When walking, remember that snowshoes don’t go in reverse, so be sure to move forward and make wide U-turns to change direction. For practice, try showshoeing on a level surface like an open field or your own backyard. Consider joining a group or taking a class offered by a local park system. Once everyone in the family has mastered the basics, you’ll be ready for more challenging terrain.

Northeast Ohio offers several options when it comes to renting or borrowing snowshoes. If you’re interested in giving the sport a try, check out one of the following locations.


As any parent knows, no family outing can be successful without snacks. Be sure to bring plenty of water in order to stay hydrated, as well as warm cider or hot chocolate for a sweet treat. To keep “hangry” kids at bay, pack portable, healthy snacks that offer a boost of energy, such as:

-Trail mix

-Cheese and crackers


-Apple chips


-Pumpkin or sunflower seeds

-Applesauce or yogurt pouches

-Chex Mix

-Dried fruit

-Peanut butter-filled pretzels

-Protein bars

About the author

Denise Koeth is Digital Content Manager for Northeast Ohio Parent. She oversees content on the website and manages the brand’s social media activity. Denise grew up in Northeast Ohio and she and her husband are currently raising their two boys here, making it a point to take the boys to area events, attractions and kid-friendly destinations.

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