Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Waiting Patiently For Spring - No More Snow!

In my last post I focused on how you can make the most of the late season snow when it feels like spring will never arrive.  If however, you are absolutely done with winter, snow, and all things white and fluffy, don't despair!  I have tons of other great suggestions for waiting out this shoulder season that don't involve snow.  Spring will eventually come but there's lots of preparation that can be done now so that you'll be ready for both spring and summer when they arrive.  There's skills to learn, new gear to buy, plans to make, and maybe even a new sport that you can start inside so that you'll be ready to take it outside in a couple of months.  Below are some of our favourite things to do while we wait patiently for spring:

Waiting for Spring

1.  Choose a new summer sport, get equipped, and start learning now

Climbing class at the Calgary Climbing Centre
Last year we took up biking and paddling as a family.  This year we plan to introduce our son to rock climbing and we want to start making the switch from his Strider balance bike to a real pedal  bike.  Taking up a new sport however can require months of prep work.  With biking, we've been researching bikes and trying to figure out which one will give our son the best fighting chance to learn to ride (key word - light weight!).  For rock climbing, we've enrolled Noah in indoor climbing classes at a local gym.  A month of classes and we hope we'll be able to transition to outdoor crags once the rock warms up.  We've also had to search out a harness that fits a 4 year old.  We finally decided on the Black Diamond Wiz Kid harness from MEC.

Spring is the perfect time to start getting excited about summer and make plans to get out and enjoy the new skills you are building now.  I've started creating my trail list of paths we want to bike this summer as a family which will include the Millennium Trail from Banff to Canmore and the Troll Falls trail in Kananskis.  I've also been working on a very long list of Rocky Mountain lakes I want to SUP this summer from Lake Louise in Banff to Maligne Lake in Jasper.   Every time I get depressed about the snow, I just go back to my lists and start dreaming more about warm weather that will eventually arrive. 

Early Season Training Rides

2.  Do inventory and replace or buy new gear and clothing
  • Go through your footwear collection.  Do your children's hiking boots still fit?  Do they need new rubber boots?  Need a new pair of sandals for summer?
  • Go through the camping supplies.  Replace or fix that leaky tent.  Buy new dishes or upgrade the stove.  Look at photos from last year and try to remember what you wish you would have had
  • Buy that hammock you've been dreaming of
  • Go through the closets.  Do the kids' hiking clothes still fit?  Do they need a new rain jacket or rain pants?  Now is the time to hit up spring clothing swaps so make your list.  How many t-shirts do you need to buy?  Pairs of shorts? 
New sunglasses from MEC for this season - aren't they sweet?!

3.  Get your garden ready to go

We've planted our sunflower and pumpkin seeds already and they sit in a sunny spot beside the kitchen table slowly growing into little baby plants.  We planted them in recycled egg cartons so that when the snow melts, we can cut them apart and plant them straight into the garden.  Want some more creative ways to start plants indoors or need ideas for gardening with kids?  Check out my spring-themed Pinterest board for some great ideas from myself and other outdoor blogging experts. 

Planting Sunflower Seeds

4.  Make those reservations, bookings and plans

If you're lucky maybe you can just show up at a campground in your neck of the woods any day you want and find a great campground.  That is definitely not the case here however.  My calendar is full of booking reminders exactly 90 days before each planned camping trip this spring and summer.  To date, I've already made reservations through the September long weekend because Parks Canada is now accepting reservations for the whole summer season.  So what are you waiting for?  Making some exciting plans just might help you forget about the snow temporarily. 

And while we are on the topic of planning, it's not too early to start thinking about next winter.  I mean are you really going to feel like booking that wilderness hostel for the Family Day long weekend next February when it's hot and sunny in August?  Might as well think about next winter while it's still easy to do so.  I've already made three hostel bookings for next winter along with one hut booking with the Alpine Club of Canada.  On the ball?  Yes.  But I also know that if I wait till next fall, I won't get a weekend spot anywhere that I want to go.

Campsites like this require bookings in advance

5.  Take a weekend getaway and go looking for green grass

Last April we took a trip to Fairmont Hotsprings in the warm Columbia Valley of BC.  While Calgary was still blanketed in snow, I found green grass at Fairmont!  Actual green grass.  It was awesome!  We went hiking on dirt trails (no snow), found running water, and spent hours in the warm hotspring pools there.  Meanwhile, I know other friends that have had enough of this white business and are escaping to Arizona for a week.  Wherever your budget allows, go somewhere warm - even if it's just across the border into BC for a couple of days.  It might just help you hold on until the grass is green here too.

April at Fairmont Hotsprings (caution - this is a great way to pick up a tick in spring)

6.  Tackle those spring chores that gotta be done sometime

Yard work with Daddy
If you aren't going to be off in the mountains hiking or skiing, you might as well be productive.  Get the trailer ready to go so that you are ready to pounce on the first warm weekend in May. Tune up your bikes.  Start building the sand box you promised your kids last year.  Buy or build the new climber, tree house or swing set for the backyard.  Need some inspiration for turning your backyard into an adventure-friendly playground?  Check out my Outdoor Play Pinterest board for many cool ways to "playscape" your backyard. 

The beach that we built last spring in our yard

7.  Seize every nice moment!

  • Get the bikes out on those warm days when the snow temporarily melts (or search out pathways with snow removal)
  • Wait for the snow to start melting and plan a Puddle Fest with your family friends as you search out the biggest and baddest puddles for the big and little puddle-jumpers in your family
  • Enjoy ever nice afternoon and get outside!  Shopping or errands can wait.  This is the time of year where you drop everything on warm +15 days
  • Go hiking in the front ranges where you'll find little snow and many glimpses of spring
  • Again, for more great ideas from creating your own backyard mud bath to spring scavenger hunts, check out the two pinterest boards mentioned above.  You'll find it hard to stay bored for long
Bike rides on warm days are fabulous!

8.  Use this opportunity to visit popular tourist attractions - without the crowds

The Calgary Zoo in spring
The Calgary Zoo, Lake Louise, Banff, Kananaskis Village, Canmore... - all insanely busy come summer!  But right now?  Deserted, quiet and very peaceful.  In fact, we are planning a trip to Banff this weekend to stay overnight.  We look forward to seeing what this busy tourist town actually feels like for the locals when they have it to themselves.

This is also the time to start buying your summer attraction passes to places like the Zoo, Calaway Park, or Heritage Park.  Calaway Park passes for example are on sale on their website until May 21st and pay themselves off in approximately one visit.   Buy your passes now before April 20th and receive bonus discount coupons for your friends for  the whole season.  (and while I'm on that note - off to purchase mine right now...)

Canmore in April

9.   Start your summer reading

Below are a list of suggested books you may want to read as you prepare and get inspired for summer:
For a great list of camping and hiking themed picture books, check out the suggestions on my Christmas gift list I created last fall.  

Camp story time with themed picture books

10.  Assemble the troops

I created an outdoor playgroup in 2012 and now we have groups of 10+ families coming on our camping trips this summer. We've been skiing and hiking together all winter, tobogganing and skating, and meeting regularly.  We are ready to transition to hiking, backpacking trips, and many many group camping trips now.  To start your own outdoor playgroup or family hiking group, please read the story I recently wrote for Calgary's Child called, Take it Outside - Planning the Perfect Playgroup.  To join   a playgroup in Calgary, visit Calgary Outdoor Playgroups on Facebook for more information.

Spring hiking with our outdoor playgroup

Not sick of the snow yet?  Cool.  Then check out the story I just had published  in Snowshoe Magazine on spring camping at the Hilda Creek Hostel on the Icefields Parkway.  Lots of good snow for sledding, snowshoeing and building snowmen there for at least another month.


  1. We started some seeds indoors as well. So much fun! We transplanted them to our raised beds almost 2 weeks ago. Everyday the kids and I go check on our plants. We are growing corn, peas, tomatoes, onions, carrots, strawberries and watermelons:)

    1. Yes, I liked your story on growing seeds inside. So far we are just doing sunflowers and pumpkins inside. Definitely can't plan anything outside yet. We do have raspberries though that should be bigger this year. We've tried planting lots of different vegetables but nothing really grows well here. :( Growing season is too short. And very bad soil! We had to bring in all new soil for our tiny garden.