Four low-impact winter activities perfect for those who don't love the cold – The Globe and Mail

Four low-impact winter activities perfect for those who don't love the cold – The Globe and Mail

There are plenty of fun winter activities to try that can help you get out of the house.VSFP
Come winter each year, the choice looms over Canadians: Seek shelter from the cold, hibernation-style, or head outside and embrace all the adventures not available to us in the warmer months. For those even a little winter curious, there are plenty of fun snow- and ice-based sports to try that can help you get out of the house.
Here are four approachable winter activities to try this year that might just make you love the season – and even expand your social circle, too.
If you’re looking to get out without exactly going outside, head to your local curling rink and grab a broom. There are more than 900 curling clubs in Canada, and it doesn’t require all that much athletic ability to join.
“Curling is super accessible,” says Bobby Ray, manager of club development for Curling Canada. “My six-year-old plays, and last night I subbed on a team where the oldest players were in their 70s.”
The sport is low-impact: In teams of four, players coax a granite stone toward a target by sweeping the ice in front of it, melting it and thus reducing friction along the carefully-plotted path the stone will follow. It’s family-friendly and easy to learn, but certainly requires strategy, Ray says.
“Some technical skills are required – some people love that curling is strategic and cerebral, calling it chess on ice – but these are easy enough to pick up and there’s always someone willing to help you learn.”
The social aspect of curling is a big part of the sport’s appeal, and most curling clubs will have a bar, restaurant or lounge. “It is tradition to stick around after a match and socialize with the other team,” Ray says. “We pride ourselves on the fact that when you start playing, you’re joining a community.”
Those who have more of an affinity for the snow but don’t know where to start when it comes to activities should grab a pair of snowshoes. Quite possibly the easiest of outdoor winter sports to get into, snowshoeing is just like walking, but with sharp treads that make almost any terrain conquerable.
You’ll need a pair of snowshoes of course, and poles if you’re planning on doing more complex trails with gradients. You may consider starting in your local park, nature reserve or trail system, or, for more complexity, look to your local cross-country ski facility – chances are they have a web of snowshoe trails you can tap into as well.
Make it a social activity by joining a local snowshoe group (most cities or towns will have one) or signing up for a guided tour at a local ski hill. Many municipalities offer free snowshoe rentals and group outings, so it’s worth checking with your local recreation department to see what’s available in your area.
The thrill of barrelling down a hill at full speed isn’t for kids alone; there are plenty of grown-up-sized sleds out there to choose from. Marching uphill provides a great short burst of energy before you take another thrilling ride down. Pack a thermos of hot chocolate and snacks, and invite a group of friends to join in on the fun. A few words of warning: Choose a hill with no obstacles that doesn’t end in a road. Wearing a snowsports helmet is advised, and the only safe position is sitting facing forward (especially when you no longer have the ability to bounce back quite like you did at 10 years old).
Wherever you live in Canada, winter is a fantastic time to get into bird watching: Though fall and spring are best known as migration seasons, many species of birds stay in Canada year-round and naked branches make them easier to spot.
“You don’t need to live in the country to spot a wide variety of birds. All you need to do is just get outside and open your ears,” says Olivia Carvalho, urban outreach and events lead for Birds Canada.
“Most cities have naturalist or bird-watching groups that you can join,” Carvalho says. “Or you can use an app to identify the birds that you observe just walking around your neighbourhood.”
Two of the most popular apps that birders use are created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology: eBird, which helps you identify what you’ve seen and uploads your observations to a database that allows researchers and scientists gather data on bird populations, and Merlin, which will aid you in identifying birds by their song. Set up a feeder in your backyard and you can even become a citizen scientist from the comfort of your warm and cozy home by joining Birds Canada’s Feederwatch Program, a grassroots bird survey of birds that visit backyards, community areas and nature centres across North America.
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