This challenging year, we have all seen many, many events moved outdoors on the fly to take advantage of greater space and ventilation. Now, as winter is sweeping in, hosts are starting to worry that frigid weather or lots of snow will put the kibosh on outdoor socializing. That absolutely doesn't have to be the case. There is a charming Norwegian saying that all Americans would do well to embrace right now: Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlig klær! There is no bad weather, only bad clothing!
So tell your friends to layer up, starting with Thermaskins long underwear and including insulated boots, waterproof gloves, and a truly warm hat, because you are going to take the party outdoors. There are lots of physically distanced activities you can pursue this winter, no matter how much snow is on the ground, and here are some of our favorites.
This one is for the experienced cold-weather folks. If you live in Wisconsin or Maine, having a little skating party out on a frozen pond is less the stuff of Little Women and more likely part of your own childhood, so mask up and trot out this tried-and-true wintertime activity again. Ice skating is great exercise, gives you a chance to show off your prettiest cold-weather accessories, and is more of a meet-up than a party so there is no pressure on a single host. Agree that everyone can bring their own Thermoses, snacks, and blankets. A couple of hours on the ice and visiting with some friends will make the world feel new again.
If you're lucky enough to live anywhere near a good hill, meet your friends there for some good old-fashioned sledding. An inner tube, baby pool, or flat trash can lid can fill in for a sled, so don't worry if you don't have one in the garage. You can apply the same meet-up rule as ice skating, so there is no single host who needs to see to everyone's comfort. In the absence of a good sledding hill, you can throw a sledding party in your own yard, believe it or not! Blow up your inflatable pool toys, shovel a track in the snow, and take turns pushing or pulling each other around! It might sound very silly but it is loads of fun and phenomenal exercise. This is another reason layering proper cold-weather gear is so important; once your body gets heated up, you'll want to remove your parka and play in your fleece layers. Build your clothing out for optimum thermoregulation!
You might see that word and think, 'But I don't want to take up an expensive new hobby! I don't want to take lessons for an advanced sport'! This is a widespread misconception. If you can hike, you can snowshoe, and you can get a good new pair of snowshoes for well under $100. There is an adage that snowshoeing takes one afternoon to learn and gives a lifetime of fun; a great investment of both time and resources. Coordinate with a few friends, and you can throw a snowshoeing party similar to sledding or skating parties. Layer up well and mask up, and there's no reason you can't spend an extremely pleasant and safe couple of hours learning and practicing this new skill. If you have enjoyed hiking socially over the summer and autumn, snowshoeing might be a perfect socially distanced activity for you and your friends. There are dozens of articles on how to get started, and I urge you to take a peek at Google to find out more about this underrated snow sport!
This kind of snow-time socializing is particularly great for physical distancing because the whole idea is to build a fort and not get too close to your opponent! The other major advantage it offers is that, because you will definitely be distancing, you can invite more people, including entire families. One home can play host for an organized snowball fight, offering warming stations and snacks, or you can set it for a specific window of time and treat it more like a pickup basketball game with no one in charge. An organized snowball fight is an extremely liquid concept, so define it in whatever way is right for you and your friends or neighbors. Snowball throwing is great fun, excellent exercise, and creates lasting, joyous memories. Just remember that cocoa afterward is not optional - it's strictly necessary!
This is the most socially distanced activity of all on this list because it is something that can be done in your own front yard. Coordinate with your neighbors - my neighborhood has an active Facebook group, but you might use Next Door or even a good old door-to-door flyer- and agree that after the next fresh snow, there will be a community-wide snowman-building competition. Each household can figure out their own plans for building, whether they do it as a family or team up with the folks next door, so no one need mix with people outside their own bubble, even while doing something together as a neighborhood! Building a snowman is something every kid and kid-at-heart wants to do each year, so take the opportunity to really deck out your creation in a fabulous winter hat and carrot nose. Don't forget the broom and scarf! Have two or three of your older or most beloved neighbors judge the snowmen; someone can drive them around to look or simply let participating families submit photos. Each household that builds a snowman will have the fun and stimulating outdoor exercise of creating their own personal Frosty, and community members who don't want to build a snowman will have the joy of seeing a real neighborhood effort at jolly wintertime cheer.
Winter weather and snow needn't drive us all back into our homes in this time of social isolation. We can all continue to see our loved ones by masking up, maintaining six feet of space, and staying outdoors. These are just a few ideas on safe social distancing activities that will make the space between you and your friends a matter of feet and inches, not emotional distance. By remembering that there is no bad weather, only poor clothing, you can prepare and dress for whatever Mother Nature can throw at you, so you can concentrate on throwing snowballs!