Growing up in New England, it was inevitable that I would love winter fun. My childhood was full of snowball fights, snow-forts, sledding, and the occasional tongue stuck to an icicle. Yet, it wasn’t until I was an adult that I tried most snow sports – snowshoeing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing. As an inner-city kid, these activities weren’t just cost-prohibitive, they were unknowns. After all, who snowshoes down an urban street?
Flash forward twenty years – I am now happily married to an avid hiker. After some prodding (and a little crying on my part), my wife got me hiking and camping. It didn’t take me long to fall in love with the outdoors. Nowadays we share our outdoor adventures with our three kids, and hundreds of our high school students.
When we started an outdoor adventure club at the inner-city high school in which we teach, we were met with skepticism from our principal, who asked, “Do you even think you’ll get 10 kids to join?” I understood his question. After all, I grew up less than two miles from a state forest, yet had never set foot in it as a kid. Undaunted, we pushed forward with the club.
In the first year, we had 150 kids sign up for all sorts of activities, including hiking, canoeing, ice-skating, snowboarding, and camping. They pleaded with me to teach them how to snowshoe, so I enrolled in an workshop with the Appalachian Mountain Club. At 37 years old, I learned to snowshoe, and more importantly, earned access to snowshoes for my students through the AMC’s Youth Opportunities Program.
Just one week after the workshop, I took seventeen students snowshoeing in Western Massachusetts. It was amazing. My oldest daughter snowshoed with us – proving that even three year olds can conquer the snow on a set of Tubbs. Even my one year old twins got in on the fun, hitching rides in kid carriers as we explored the forest trails.
My love for exploring the outdoors strengthened and grew as I watched my urban students discover a new world outside their crumbling concrete and gang-infested neighborhoods. Snowshoeing is literally changing their lives. Their enthusiasm, and that of my own children, has become my greatest inspiration for getting outdoors in the winter months.