One great advantage we enjoy as New Brunswickers is an environment which offers fabulous opportunities for the outdoor recreation that is part of a healthy lifestyle. With its forests and fields, lakes, rivers, and coastal areas, our environment has a lot to offer all year round. In the winter, especially, when a blanket of snow covers everything, it's important to remember that we share a complex eco-system with other living things, and everything we do in the pursuit of fun will impact in some way on the environment as a whole. The key is to do what we can to minimize that impact.
There are any number of ways to get out in the fresh air and make the winter holiday a time of family fun, while caring for our environment.
- Skiing can be a complete physical workout, or as relaxing as a walk in the park. New Brunswick has many well-groomed cross-country trails and downhill slopes. Why not conserve energy by travelling in one vehicle, or where available, use the bus service to your favourite skiing spot.
- Snowshoes are the quiet and leisurely way to move through deeper snow, giving us the chance to see birds and wildlife up close. Children too young to manage snowshoes can easily be pulled on a toboggan or sled.
- Toboggans are a wonderful way to take toddlers with you on a long winter walk, but they're the most fun on a quick downhill run! When buying a toboggan, look for the strong wood and durable construction that will give many years of wear. A big piece of sturdy cardboard, such as the side of an appliance box, also makes a great 'magic carpet' on a hill of packed snow, and breaks down quickly in the landfill when it's too worn for further use.
- For lots of fun close to home, build an original snow sculpture in your yard, or (with the permission of the land-owner) in a nearby field or park. Sleeping dinosaurs are particularly good subjects, low to the ground and solid enough not to melt on the first sunny day.
- Sleigh rides ... a romantic moonlit outing, or a lively afternoon with the whole family are popular winter traditions in New Brunswick.
- When hiking or winter camping, make sure someone at home knows exactly where you're going and when you'll be back. Stay on existing trails wherever possible, and remember to bring out of the woods everything that you took in. If you build a fire, use fallen branches rather than cutting new wood.
- A small backyard rink provides hours of fast-paced hockey practice in return for the relatively small amount of water it takes to flood the area. Many communities offer indoor skating facilities or outdoor rinks in parks. If you skate on a river or other outdoor location, be sure to check with local authorities to make sure that the ice is thick enough for safety, and keep a close eye on small children.
- Many New Brunswickers enjoy ice-fishing. If this is your choice of winter activity, you'll be aware that all sheds must be registered or licenced and equipment must be taken off the ice before spring thaw. (Watch for the annual announcement about removing ice-fishing sheds.) Take care that no litter or waste is left at the fishing site at the end of the day, and that vehicles parked on the ice do not leak oil or gasoline.
- Snowmobile clubs often organize family-oriented events, and many offer safety courses as well. For energy efficiency and safety, keep your snowmobile engine clean and tuned, and drive at slower speeds. Get permission before using private property, particularly on farmlands where over-wintering crops or young trees might be damaged. When refuelling or maintaining your machine, be careful not to spill any gas or oil.(Check with local service stations for one that will take back empty oil contaimers.)
- Even if you aren't able to participate in outdoor activities in the winter, you can still enjoy our natural environment by birdwatching. Many New Brunswickers sign up for the annual Boxing Day bird count, in which birdwatchers all across Canada record the different species they are able to spot. Contact your local chapter of the N.B. Federation of Naturalists to learn how to take part.