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Best Outdoor Activities for Your Kids’ Winter Break

What’s the absolute best thing about winter? OK, right after hot chocolate. The best thing after hot chocolate is the snow. Whether it’s fine and powdery or slick and slippery, snow delivers an open invitation to romp, stomp, slip, slide, slither, dance and play.

Heading with your kids into the snow is the coolest thing you can do for winter break (pun definitely intended). While simply standing around and gazing at the glory of the snow is enough to deliver a big thrill – for about 30 seconds – you’re going to need much more than that to capture and keep the attention of the average kid.

They need exciting activities that double as memorable adventures in the most magical winter wonderland. Here’s all you need to know to experience it.

Visit the Most Magical Winter Wonderland

Vail village in winter

While the North Pole may immediately come to mind as a top winter break destination, air fares to Santa’s workshop are ridiculous these days. Besides, the elves keep weird hours working at the toy factory. Who wants to simply stand around and watch them work, anyway?

Booking a trip to the mountains will give you and your kiddos so much more to do, see and experience – especially if you opt for Vail. Vail is a world-famous ski resort, but downhill skiing isn’t the only outdoor winter activity you can put on the itinerary.

Kids can try everything from fat-tire biking to ice skating, cross country skiing to ice bumper cars. Yes, you heard that right. Ice bumper cars. And don’t forget snow shoeing, dogsledding, sleigh riding, ice fishing or building the perfect snowman.

If you can think of any fun winter activities that are perfect in the ice and snow, chances are Vail has an outfitter (or 10) that can help you engage in it. Horses, sleighs and snow mobiles are at the ready, along with guided tours, equipment rentals and anything else you may need to dive right into the outdoor winter fun.

While it’s true the more than 5,000 acres on Vail Mountain make for an adventurous mountain getaway all year round, it can be especially thrilling in the winter. It’s like walking into an enchanted European village. Or better yet, a snow globe.

Why Outdoor Adventures are a Must

Sure, Vail has plenty of après-ski and indoor activities when you’re done with the day’s activities or need to warm up a bit. But none come with the same level of astounding benefits you and your kids get from being in the great outdoors.

Being outdoors is great for both body and mind.

  • It gets you moving. Bodies weren’t designed to slump on the couch playing video games all day. We were meant to dance, prance and move! Playing outside involves all types of movement, giving you a fun way to burn off calories. For the record, the obesity rate is 14% for children ages 2 to 5, and 40% for adults. Ouch.
  • It helps you sleep better. Ever notice how soundly you sleep after a day of outdoor activity? It’s not a coincidence. A study of kids ages 2 to 5 found better sleep to be a consistent result of outdoor playtime. Physical activity, reduced stress and exposure to natural sunlight are thought to be contributing factors.
  • It opens the door to learning, creativity and imagination. Whether you make up stories about what the evergreen trees are saying or pretend you’re in the winter wilderness 100 years in the past, being outside has a way of breaking the imagination wide open.

Studies have also shown that older kids are more productive and attentive in the classroom when they get recess breaks. Think of winter break as one giant recess. Nice!

  • It lets you develop new skills and test your limits. How fast can you run in the snow? How many times can you snowboard down the hill before it gets dark outside? Can you ice skate forward and backward?

Become Ski or Snowboard Mavens

As noted, engaging in outdoor activities is an ideal way to learn new skills. And winter months are the best time to learn skills that align with two of the top outdoor winter activities of all time. Professional lessons can make them all the more enjoyable.

Enroll your kids in ski or snowboard lessons. Or go for both! The better they are at either activity, the more they’ll enjoy being on the mountain all day. Heck, they may even be able to teach you a thing or two.

Explore an Untried Outdoor Activity

Maybe your kids have already mastered skiing and snowboarding. They may have also built dozens of snowmen, been in 500 snowball fights and even built a snow fort or two.

Why not go for something they’ve never done before, perhaps something new for the whole family?

Have you ever been dogsledding? Snowshoeing? Taken horse-drawn sleigh rides over the mountains and through the woods?

Other activities include Nordic skiing, ice fishing, snowmobiling and ice skating. Told you the North Pole had nothing on Vail.

How to Get Your Kids Outside in the Snow

Now that you know how awesome outdoor play is for winter break and the benefits of engaging in it, there’s only one thing left to do. Get outside! While that may sound straightforward, it may not be as simple as you think.

Leaving your warm pajamas for cold snow can be a hard sell for kids. Unless, of course, you know how to sell it.

Let them have a say in the activity.

Letting your kids choose the activity can always bring on a level of excitement. As long as you serve up a list of limited choices from which to choose.

Don’t go for a wide-open question, such as “What do you want to do today?” This could lead to eight hours of watching them play video games or taking a road trip to the largest ball of string on earth.

Do offer choices that are on your bucket list anyway. “Do you want to go ice skating or snow tubing today?” Or something like: “Would you rather go ice skating or snow tubing first?”

Entice them with the right apparel.

Even toddlers can fall in love with donning a brand-new leopard-print snow parka or neon yellow snow pants. Get the excitement rolling far in advance by shopping for the most amazing snow clothes. Kids will be so wound up about wearing them they’ll have no problem putting them on to go bounding into the snow.

Don’t forget the beanie with the cute fluffy ball on top. No kid’s snow outfit is complete without a little beanie ball.

Serve up the right equipment.

A snowball rocket launcher. Brand new ski goggles. A snowboard with a funny looking cat printed on it. If you can find a snow-happy toy or piece of equipment they’re itching to try out, they’ll be out in the snow playing before you even have to ask.

Turn outdoor playtime into an adventure story.

Remember that stuff about using your imagination? Instead of simply saying, “Hey, we’re going snowshoeing today,” create an entire adventure story around the activity.

Perhaps you’re a family who had a fine cabin in the woods until a giant moose knocked it down. Now you have to trek over miles and miles of wilderness to find a magic bean that will grow a new cabin.

The bean could be hidden anywhere between here and there. It could be hidden in a tree. Underneath a pile of snow. At the edge of the creek. Where, or where, can that bean be?

Your kids’ ho-hum snowshoe outing just turned into a save-your-life excursion where the first one to find the magic bean is the hero. And heroes get hot chocolate, by the way.

Bribe with hot chocolate.

You knew this one was coming. Hot chocolate is the perfect way to cap off a winter day – but make sure it’s only offered if your kids spend that day out in the great snowy outdoors. Make it even more enticing by promising one extra marshmallow for every hour they’re out in the snow. And no, they can’t stay out all night.

The Magic of Vail for Winter Break

While the colder months may not be the best time to visit certain vacation destinations, Vail is a massive exception. The ski resort is open for year-round fun, with the winter holidays being one of the most enjoyable times to experience all this mountain getaway has to offer.

Fresh air. Stunning views. Winter sports that range from snowboarding to dogsledding, with plenty of other fun things in between. And yes, when it’s time to warm up and unwind by the fire, you’ll find a fine array of delicious treats – including the best hot chocolate in the world.