As you may have determined from earlier blog posts, I am not really a winter person. In fact, until this weekend I would have gone so far as to say I hated winter. As I packed up the kids, mismatched mittens and snowsuits galore, I seriously considered booking a flight to Miami. Luckily, later that day I spoke to Dan from Muskoka Sports and Recreation and my fear of winter turned into sheer excitement.
|Dan from Muskoka Sports and Recreation with Charlie.|
Within minutes, Dan had me convinced that taking children snowmobiling and ice fishing was not only safe but a great way to explore winter. We drove to The Rosseau, A JW Marriott resort in Muskoka, and immediately met Dan’s wife and fellow winter enthusiast Diane. After spending 5 minutes with her and watching her interact with my kids, I knew we were going to have a great weekend. Diane has a teaching background and watching her put children at ease is amazing. She knows songs for putting on mittens, sliding down hills and generally putting smiles on freezing cold children’s faces. She also equips the tour guides with snacks and juice for kids which came in handy more than a few times.
|Diane making maple syrup at the hotel.|
Our first activity with the Muskoka Sports team was ice fishing. We headed out onto Lake Rosseau with the fishing guide Alex. The group consisted of an array of people ranging in age and outdoors experience. One neat aspect of the experience was the vibe of the group. I tend to worry that my kids will be a distraction to adults on these types of tours but everyone was extremely welcoming and chatty with the kids.
|Alex, ice fishing expert and fellow travel blogger.|
The guides set up heated pop tents and taught us how to drill holes and the best fishing techniques. The kids loved how much Alex could tell them about the lake, ice and the Muskoka area and we really had fun just playing in the snow and looking in the holes for fish.
|Will and Charlie were blown away by the fact that we were walking on a frozen lake and loved looking through the holes.|
When I had originally spoken to Dan, I estimated that we would last approximately 30 minutes at this activity. As we packed up two hours after arriving, the kids were nowhere near ready to leave. It was incredibly cool to see the holes partially freezing over and they loved fishing and scooping the ice out of the water. The guides checked on them, let them play with minnows and did a great job going from group to group making sure people were having fun.
|Will and Charlie trying to catch fish.|
You do need to be a little careful while out with younger kids and make sure to watch for holes in the ice. Also the heaters in the tents get incredibly hot and its important to watch kids around them. Otherwise, the experience is relaxing and really fun. We were lucky to be in a group with other small children, and the kids spent a lot of time chatting, making snow angels and generally just enjoying winter. We didn’t catch a fish but luckily someone else did and we got to hold it afterwards. I thought the kids would be upset in the end that we didn’t personally catch a fish, but they had so much fun they didn’t even think about it.
|Will with a fish.|
There were a few very tender moments on the ice fishing tour including when Charlie fell into a deep snow bank without mittens on. Alex ran over to her, scooped her up and immediately took her hands and warmed them up in his. He calmed her down, made sure she was okay and generally saved the day as we were still a 10-15 minute walk from the hotel. As we packed up to go, a little earlier than the rest of the group, Alex decided he needed to get something in his car and helped me get the kids back to the hotel on their sled as they were both exhausted. A gesture I found to be quite touching.
|Back at the hotel with Alex.|
All in all the ice fishing tour was incredibly fun and completely child friendly. I would do it again any day with my two. Ice fishing with the company is $165 for a half day including all equipment, snacks and a guide and $89 for children under 12. After ice fishing, we hit the warm hot tub and planned for our snowmobiling trip.
|A relaxing swim after fishing.|
Muskoka Sports and Recreation is conveniently located in the JW Marriott hotel. Our snowmobiling adventure began with getting properly fitted for helmets by Dan. Muskoka Sports also outfits you with full snowsuits and boots. Dan was great with the helmets and was able to custom fit children’s helmets for Will and Charlie by adding padding as needed. Both were very comfortable during the tour.
|Will trying on helmets with Dan.|
Once we were outfitted, we hit the road and drove to the trail which is approximately 15 minutes from the hotel. Once the group arrived, we were given a demo on how to drive, stop and do a 3-point turn. It was very clear that Dan wanted everyone to feel comfortable before hitting the trails.
|Me attempting to master the 3-point turn.|
After our brief training, it was time to hit the trails. The speed the group goes is determined by how comfortable the drivers are and Dan is very patient in making sure everyone feels safe but also lets you attempt to go faster when ready. The trails can be quite technical and you do learn quite quickly how to steer and how to prepare for turns.
|Me and Will hit the trail.|
Dan clearly knows the area and trails well and is the perfect guide for the activity. If you are uncomfortable having a child on your snowmobile, Dan does take smaller kids with him on tours which can be helpful if you are a group of three. For our tour, Dan rode mostly with Charlie and Will rode with me.
|Charlie loved being on the back of the snowmobile with Dan.|
The snowmobile tours led by the company vary in length from an hour and a half to a full day and the company also offers a dinner tour where your meal is included. Over the weekend, everyone I spoke to at the hotel who had done any length of tour said they had had an incredible time. Dan’s name was overheard all over the hotel as people raved about the company and how much fun they had with him.
|Two thumbs up at the end of our ride.|
The great thing about Muskoka Sports and Recreation is that they are a smaller company led by two very dedicated and caring people. Dan and Diane are incredibly friendly and welcoming and really want you to enjoy your time with them. They are dealing with many variables such as weather and children but still manage to make sure everyone is having fun. They understand children get cold and tired and help out in every way possible on the tours. My kids loved both tours more than I ever imagined. I will even admit that the time I spent ice fishing and snowmobiling gave me an entirely new appreciation for winter.
|All smiles after snowmobiling with Dan.|
Muskoka Sports also operates out of the hotel during the summer months running a variety of tours including jet skiing, kayaking and hiking. In addition, they run children’s programs at the hotel during conferences and weddings and with Diane’s background and experience with younger children I can only assume they are fantastic.
If heading to the Muskoka area or the Rosseau, it would be wise to give them a call and book one of the many tours they offer year round. They are a local company that will go to all lengths to ensure you have an amazing experience and from all the smiles I saw at the end of the day, I can assure you you’ll have a great time too.