Sixteen smiling faces eagerly inhaled the cold crisp air of the new year as Cami, Topher and I embarked on a 3-day snow camp in early January. There was a lot of pent up energy in the group as we made our way across the U of I landscape in to the forest. Kids tumbled and wrestled, threw snowballs and slid down any hill they could find. We did a 5-minute fire challenge to test their ability to make a fire in winter and to teach them some good technique. The kids who had attended Camp Kaniksu in the summer remembered the lessons they learned and got fires started using birch bark and cedar shavings. We started a central fire for the kids to warm up at and made a tripod to hang a pot from to boil water for cocoa. Some time spent sledding, some cocoa, s’mores, and a quick game of foot hockey on the frozen pond and day one was complete.
We started day two with a bunch of high energy running games on the ice. One of my favorites involves having four kids carry a “frozen” kid or adult by their arms and legs to a base to recharge. Later we introduced the kids to snow tracking and examined a bunch of different animal feet and the tracks they leave in the snow. We took them on a big ramble through some deep powder to some of my favorite spots and tracked as we went. Snowshoe hares and deer being the most prolific with an occasional squirrel track thrown in. We did some snow art with food coloring in spray bottles and spent time around the fire telling winter stories of sleds and snowshoes, moose and otters. The kids sledded until darkness overtook us.
On the final day of snow camp, we rode the Schweitzer bus up the mountain and kids brought their siblings and parents along for some fun on the tubing hill. You could link multiple tubes together and on one ride, a six- year-old boy yelled to me, “This is the funnest thing I’ve ever done in my life”. Sometimes as adults, we forget the sheer wonder and joy that winter brings to children. Whether it is diving in to deep powder, a well-thrown snowball, catching a snowflake on your tongue, or sliding down a hill on a really fast tube. Get outside this winter and play like it is your first time.