One of the advantages of living healthy – eating clean food and engaging in physical activity – is you can enjoy all that nature has to offer. Come winter, while some families retreat into their blankets, my wife, Hayley, my four young children and I head to the mountains to engage in every kind of winter activity we can find.


Nearby Swiss Valley

One of our favorite nearby places is Swiss Valley Ski & Snowboard Area in southern Michigan. It’s just 40 minutes from South Bend and 90 minutes from Fort Wayne. It’s also the closest ski area to Chicago and Indianapolis. It has day and night skiing and 100% snowmaking. The kids take lessons while Hayley and I ski the mountain’s trails.

Skiing and snowboarding are great full body workouts, better than any treadmill or elliptical machine. They exercise your heart and lungs, and use both fast- and slow-twitch muscles in your legs, hips, glutes, back, and stomach. Many of the muscles involved don’t get much use during the non-winter months, even if you’re a runner or cyclist.


Skiing and snowboarding are also great ways for children to develop balance and coordination, and to learn that winter is fun!


Ski and Snowboard Colorado

Of course, if you really want to ski and snowboard big mountains, you need to head to the Rockies.


At Vail, for example, lift tickets are four times the price of Swiss Valley, but the vertical rise is 15 times as high and a single trail can stretch for four miles. Skiing four miles is both an aerobic and non-aerobic workout, and if you can do it without stopping, you are a star.


The crisp, cold air; the soft shushing sound of skis on snow, the gorgeous spectacle of trees covered in white powder, the taste of hot food on a cold day; and the invigorating total body exhaustion at the end of the day – they combine to remind you that you are alive and appreciating the beauty that nature provides.


It’s Not Just Skiing

There are plenty of other ways to enjoy winter.


Our children love snow tubing, which is less aerobic, but still a rush. There is tubing at Ferrettie/Baugo Creek in nearby Osceola and at St. Patrick’s Park in South Bend. Wherever you live, you don’t need a mountain; there’s probably a hill nearby on which your children (of any age) can tube or sled.


If there aren’t any hills or mountains around, look for water. Ponds, lakes and even rivers that freeze during the winter are natural venues for ice skating and hockey games. Just stay safe!


Whatever outdoor winter sports appeal to you, I encourage you to get outside and engage in them. Participating in outdoor activities and engaging with the natural world lead to a fuller life and help maintain good physical and mental l health. Exercise, along with a healthy diet; sufficient sleep; a network of friends and family; and avoidance of alcohol, tobacco and drugs; is the path to a long and healthy life.