Staying active is a year-round discipline. It’s important to get outside, even in the winter, when snow looks most beautiful out a window. But if just walking in a winter wonderland is too slow, consider implementing some more creative activities to make the most of the winter months.
At the University of Michigan, in a state with harsher winters than most, the activity of the season is dog sledding, according to John Swerdlow, the senior assistant director of rec sports.
“We have trips over a three-day weekend to the Upper Peninsula [of Michigan] that include a day of cross-country skiing and a day with a great outfitter who takes our students dog sledding,” said Swerdlow.
According to Swerdlow, dog sledding is a beloved activity throughout the recreation department — for man and dog alike. “The best part is the dogs love it,” said Swerdlow. “Their energy is contagious and working with the dogs just puts a smile on everyone’s face.”
It isn’t a walk in the park from the start, however. Due to being an unconventional campus recreation activity, there are still some hurdles to leap in making dog sledding feasible and enjoyable.
“Logistics is always the challenge,” explained Swerdlow. “Getting participants all the information and the cold-weather gear they need is a challenge, as well as finding cabins that are inexpensive and have the right rustic feel for a trip like this.”
Nailing down the logistics is only one half of the equation for Michigan. Getting students to sign up when they’d rather be snuggled under blankets is a challenge in and of itself.
How does the Michigan campus recreation department drive participation? The answer is simple. “Mass emails, social media and word of mouth,” said Swerdlow.
Getting to hang out with dogs probably doesn’t hurt either.
And after all the preparation, the end result of these dog sledding trips is certainly worth it. Students get to experience the great outdoors during a season that begs us to stay indoors. According to Swerdlow, being out in nature is the best way to spend the winter.
“The key to getting through a long, grey winter is to get outside,” said Swerdlow. “It’s more work to get outside in the winter, but with proper gear you can get out into a beautiful, quiet winter landscape. Come back in for some hot chocolate and I promise your winter blues will be gone.”