Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Easier Ways to Explore Winter Trails

With lots of snow in Massachusetts, outdoor recreation is looking good as we kick off another winter season of accessible fun in the parks!

While some may be looking forward to engaging in rigorous activities like cross country skiing, others may feel concerned about staying warm and safe on snow and ice. In DCR's Universal Access Program, everyone's needs can be met, thanks to a wide array of available equipment.

For those who are ambulatory, snowshoes are fantastic. With the wide platforms and big teeth underfoot that snowshoes offer, most people experience far greater stability on winter trails. Snowshoeing, especially in soft powdery snow like we've had recently, is a delightful way to experience the winter woods. If you are concerned about balance, using poles is will help you feel even more secure. Snowshoes are a great alternative for those who feel cross country skiing is just a bit too risky. I've been really appreciating snowshoes lately, since a shoulder injury is preventing me from using ski poles.

For someone who is unable to stand or use their upper body, we have a variety of modified sitskis that feature stroller bar handles so someone can push. Outriggers on these sitskis prevent them from tipping sideways (which can happen from grooves in the snow from other trail users) and provide a secure ride for anyone who may be vulnerable about falling. Modified sitskis have been very popular in recent years as more people with severe disabilities seek out new cures for cabin fever. I'd love to see this item put on the market. We've been making our own using conventional sitskis, but it seems to me that a "snow stroller" on skis suitable for use by adults on moderate terrain could have a wide user range.

Those who want to travel faster on trails can with support from skilled staff and volunteers as needed. Those who prefer a more leisurely outing can go out for shorter amounts of time at a slower pace. Equipment can be mixed and matched to suit a family's particular needs. In the photo shown, the mother is cross country skiing, the kids are snowshoeing, and their father is being pushed in a modified sitski - an he can also get some arm exercise if he chooses. The woman pushing may be wearing snowshoes or just good winter boots.

The Scandinavian kicksled is our other favorite winter item. This chair on runners is especially great for kids and families on moderate terrain. You can read more about it on a previous post and try one out at any of our outdoor programs.

Those who want big noise and speed won't want to miss out on the easiest trail experience of all, though it is also the coldest! Come to Wendell State Forest and take a ride on the snowmobile! Program dates are listed in the sidebar to the right - the first one is this Saturday, January 22! We'll also have our snowmobile and sleigh in action at our Winter Festival at Dunn State Park in Gardner on Saturday, February 5.

No matter what trail experience you chose, be sure to wear warm clothes and good boots. Don't forget your hat and mittens! The easiest way to enjoy winter is to be well prepared for cold. You can always shed a layer if you need to and warm up in our warming rooms at the parks.

Check out other posts here for more information on program specifics! See you out there!

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