Attractions are closed, tourists have left, and many folks turn into seasonal homebodies—but there is still a lot of family fun waiting in the great outdoors!
The Hardesty Family
This active family doesn’t stop just because the snow has started! The Hardestys from Sturgis, with mom Shantel, dad Aric, and seven-year-old Kynlee, break the winter blues with year-round hiking, tubing across the snow, and intense snowball fights.
“We love to hike throughout the year! Devils Bathtub is always a good spot because the trails are easily accessible–even in the winter,” said Shantel.
Hiking is perhaps the most attainable winter sport, as the only equipment needed is a good pair of hiking boots (or snowshoes depending on the weather), winter clothes to bundle up in, and a reliable vehicle.
After a fun morning hiking, this family heads to the hills for tubing over the compact snow with friends. The kids have a blast rushing down the slick hills on tubes. Before hitting the slopes, gather all necessary equipment like warm clothing, sturdy shoes, and heavy gloves—inner tubes can be found at local stores.
“We love being active in the winter because it breaks up the norm of sitting inside with movies and hot chocolate. With the weather being so unpredictable in the area, you never know when you’re going to be forced to be locked indoors due to the sometimes unforeseen blizzards. But, even when it blizzards and we do end up stuck at home, we also never miss an opportunity for a snowball fight,” explained Shantel.
The Schad Family
The Schads’ three kids—Grace (13), Lily (10), and Grant (9)—practically have skiing in their blood. Their mom Courtney grew up in Maine, while their dad Shannon grew up in Rapid City. Their paths crossed in Colorado, where they were both competitive skiers, and the rest is history! Courtney and Shannon retired from competitive skiing and moved to Rapid City to raise a family.
“I would have to say that my husband and I have always been interested in skiing,” said Courtney. “Our kids have been skiing since they were two!”
Once their kids were old enough to ski competitively, these parents volunteered to coach the Black Hills Ski Team. They love practicing on Terry Peak, near Lead and Deadwood, as well as traveling to Colorado once a year to take advantage of the slopes down there. The Schads also take skiing vacations to Montana regularly—but the Black Hills will always be their home base.
“The Black Hills are a fantastic place to learn to ski. There are plenty of skiing areas, as well as it being a very family friendly environment.” For cross country skiing in the hills, the Beaver Creek Ski System near Custer has six trails with a total distance of about 13 miles. Deerfield Reservoir Complex and Carson Draw Trail System also have established trails for cross country skiing. Weather for skiing is usually decent by late November and the snow stays packed until March or early April. Several hiking trails in the Black Hills National Forest are open to cross-country skiing and snowboarding in the winter months. Before hitting the snow, make sure it is allowed on the trail you choose.
The Bruner Family
The Bruner family from Spearfish is never one to turn down a hike; mom Jeannine even continued to hike and workout up to 30 weeks while pregnant! Jeannine, Dan, Natalee (11), Owen (10), Harper (6), and Jude (6 months) take advantage of the Black Hills winters by sledding, hiking, and skiing in the area’s beautiful scenery. Not all trails around the hills are suitable for families with young children, however.
“My oldest two and I like to go to Community Caves in Spearfish Canyon to see the ice columns, but it is too hard for my 6-year-old and baby,” Jeannine remarked.
Sledding, however, is something the entire family can get in on. Before taking the kids sledding, make sure to find a smooth hill that isn’t too steep or ends near a street, parking lot, trees, or bodies of water. Young kids should wear a helmet to ensure they don’t get any head injuries.
Their favorite sledding spots are the hill by the West Elementary or the hill by Elkhorn Ridge Golf Club. But you don’t have to be in Spearfish to take advantage of the slippery snow. From Belle Fourche to Hot Springs, western South Dakota’s rolling hills make for the perfect sledding adventure!
Jeannine encourages more families to get out of the house, bundle up in warm clothes and mittens, and experience the snow-covered Black Hills.
“If families can get out safely, and are properly equipped, then they should try to experience the Black Hills during the winter,” said Jeannine. “It’s so peaceful and beautiful to be in the hills after a fresh snowfall. It’s easy to want to stay curled up, but those bright, sunny days in the winter are just too good to pass up!”
Too cold to go outside? Try one of these indoor boredom busters together!
Visit a local museum or gallery to learn about the exhibits on display
Play board games, and introduce your kids to your childhood favorites
Visit the library and pick out some books everyone will enjoy
Turn the living room into a theatre and host a movie marathon
Get crafty and find an easy DIY project on Pinterest to hang in the house
Rent a hotel room and enjoy the pool for a mini weekend getaway
Make up funny skits with friends and put on a show
Grab your bowling shoes and head to the lane for an afternoon of fun
Build a fort out of blankets and chairs
Take a mom and me class at a local event center
Bake away and make yummy treats for family and friends