Training Series – FAMILY Group

While taking kids out to camp in the snow is not for the faint of heart or the unprepared, snowcamping can be a truly magical experience that brings parents and kids closer together and teaches older youth important skills. Imagine building a snow cave with your kids, sharing a warm night’s sleep safe from the wind and snow, munching popcorn, and playing cards by candlelight (if they don’t fall asleep first from all the snow work and play!). Snowcamping isn’t easy, but the rewards of both the teamwork and self-sufficiency required to be comfortable, warm and safe teach self-reliance, give one self-esteem, and offer a real sense of appreciation and respect for the beautiful and mystical winter wonderland of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

The Snowcamping Family Group is a subgroup of the Snowcamping Training Series that offers training trips for parents or guardians and kids age 8 and up. Many aspects of the training series apply, so we strongly encourage interested family and youth groups to also read the pages relating to the Snowcamping Training Series and/or come to one of our free snowcamping informational clinics. Our volunteer leaders and assistants are graduates of the Training Series and all leaders are certified in Wilderness First Aid and have had experience as assistants before becoming leaders. Family Group leaders are chosen based on their experience and skills with families and children.

Participating parents and kids must have experience in summer backpacking, be able to reliably use a stove, have a sense of adventure, be willing to help other families, and be ready for the physical challenge of traveling on snowshoes with a pack. Sleds (for gear only) are an option. We require at least one parent for every two kids, and the minimum age for kids is 8 years old. Single parents are welcome. Exceptions on the parent-to-kid ratio rule can be made with leader approval.

Both the kids and their parents must attend the orientation day before going on their first snowcamping trip. Fees for the 2023 season are $20 per child, and $155 per adult (with a $10 discount for adult Sierra Club members, and an early bird of discount $15 if received by 2022-11-30). All participants receive a Snowcamping Training Manual and a “reward” (e.g., a tee shirt, mug, or other item commemorating the completion of their first trip).


A Typical Family Trip

On the first trip we camp out for one night, usually leaving from a trailhead near Echo Summit on Highway 50. Participants are encouraged to travel to the mountains the evening prior to the trip to stay in a local motel; this gives everyone a chance to acclimate to the change in elevation and makes the trip easier for children.

In the morning, we meet in a local restaurant for a group breakfast. Next, at the trailhead, everyone packs up, and any group equipment is distributed among the adults. Before leaving, we determine our location using map and compass, and make sure that everyone knows where we are and where we are headed. Our destination will be within 1-3 miles of the trailhead, and we always choose a site that will allow for quick evacuation in case of an emergency.

One leader sets out in front of the group, and another brings up the rear as the “sweep.” We always stay in sight of each other, and leaders carry two-way radios for easy communication. After about an hour and a half of travel, we break for lunch, and again check our location on the map using a compass. We usually reach camp within a half hour after lunch, at which point we set up tents and then dig out a “table” and “benches” to create a snow kitchen. Once everything is ready, those who are interested can build snow shelters to sleep in, try out the sleds, or just play in the snow.

Dinner is always a treat, and on clear nights the stars can be magnificent. Before turning in for the evening (most families sleep in 3-season tents), we heat up water so that each camper can have a water bottle to snuggle with in bed. In the morning, after breakfast, we tour shelters, and everyone has a chance to talk about what they did or didn’t like about their sleeping accommodations. If there’s time, the kids can play and the adults can take some time to relax before we start to pack up and get ready for the trip out.

The second trip is similar to the first; we usually go to Carson Pass on Highway 88. Because we have an extra day, there is more time for digging snow shelters and snow play.