The WAY I SEE IT: Waiting for a snow day

Michele Blais looks at the joys of enjoying winter, not just enduring the cold

As Canadians we may have a love-hate relationship with snow. We love the recreation opportunities it provides: tobogganing, skiing, snowboarding, cross-country, snowmobiling and snowshoeing. There are the artistic advantages of creating a whole family of snowmen, with every age and gender represented, including attempts at the family pets. Ice sculptures and opportunities for great winter festivals. The beauty of the snow on the trees, and the quiet that seems to blanket our community after a fresh snow.

That peacefulness is there until you hear the grrrrr of  tires spinning, or the dragging noise of the snowplows on the road. Icy roads, getting stuck in snow banks, temperature dropping, roofs collapsing from the weight of snow go in the hate category.

To find joy with winter I have tried various activities to get me out and playing in it. My new favourite for the past 10 years is snowshoeing. The popularity of this sport is soaring because it is easy to do, very affordable, gets you out in the fresh air, and is great exercise. It is walking with contraptions on your feet that require you to lift your knees up higher, which provides a greater exercise benefit and is good for the butt. Add climbing up the mountain to do it and you can work up a sweat and get the heart racing; well it gets my heart pumping.

According to the Canadian Icons website, snowshoes have been a common form of transport in this country for hundreds of years thanks to the creativity of the aboriginal people. The oldest snowshoes were made by the Ojibwa people. Imagine the surprise of the early European settlers who wanted to hunt in the winter, become trappers, or even move about to visit neighbours, but with our deep powdery snow walking would be impossible. The snowshoes allowed them to float on top of the deep snow by having the weight of the walker distributed across the surface. The snowshoes allowed people to migrate across the top of the globe from Central Asia to Canada.

It is the peacefulness of the forest that appeals to me. When we can venture into an area where the trees are covered in snow the quiet is so lovely. I believe being able to be out in nature is really healthy in a physical and a psychological way. In my personal experience I find nature to be very calming, my mind does not race with ideas of what I need to do or create lists, or solve problems. Instead I look for birds, or rabbit tracks, or give thought to the true size of the trees we are walking by. I appreciate the trails made or when we get to do some bushwacking through powder and consider how deep the snow is below. It is almost meditative.

When the lads were shorter we skied, tobogganed, skated, played at Tube Town, created a variety of snow creatures, and when we snow shoed we added flag football to it. That was fun running in snowshoes. This past New Year’s Eve day my oldest and I went snowshoeing as a great way to end the year by getting to the mountain top. So we climbed to the tower by Sovereign. He was leading the way on paths remembered from Quest and phys-ed classes at Seaton. We enjoyed a snack at the top and our dog Indiana rounded out our party.

He lives in Toronto now and took several photos along the way of the amazing views to send his new city friends for bragging rights: look where I grew up, lucky me. We are fortunate to live in such a beautiful part of this amazing country.

Snowshoeing  is a great activity to combine your exercise with visiting with friends and families. Wear layers, bring water and snacks and go play in the snow. Roseanne Van Ee’s tours at Silver Star are a wonderful way to get started or to just explore new ground. Her enthusiastic story telling is a bonus.

The way I see it, this is just one more way to make peace with winter. Enjoy.

Michele Blais has worked with families and children in the Vernon area for the past 27 years and is a longtime columnist with The Morning Star, appearing every other Sunday.