To embrace winter is to be Canadian! Some of the most challenging adventures in Canada can be during winter – where we test both our resolve, survival and adventure skills and our good judgement. Scouts Canada believes all youth should have the experience of knowing how to embrace winter: have fun and enjoy the outdoors in the winter months.
Winter camping is an experience available to all youth of all ages, with progressively more adventure and challenge for older sections. In addition to winter camping, winter sports and outdoor adventures present opportunities for leadership and personal skill development, accessible through Scouting, and often a first for many youth: cross-country skiing, ice skating, sledding, ice fishing, and snowshoeing. Essential ingredients for fun include skill training and an awareness of the hazards unique to these activities. Snow conditions, hazardous terrain, special clothing needs, and emergency survival are important issues for a safe and successful experience.
This standard should be used as an addition / extension to the Adventure standards for winter conditions.
1. The Standard applies to all Councils, Groups and Sections conducting adventure activities in winter conditions.
2. The objective of this Standard is to ensure that all winter-condition adventure plans are developed and implemented with full alignment to Scouts Canada’s expectations of safety, planning and preparation, adventure and high-quality program delivery to meet and exceed the expectations of our parents and youth.
3. The Group Commissioner and Scouter-in-Charge ensures:
- All winter activities must be supervised by a designated person who is experienced in the particular skills and equipment involved in the activity.
- Note: In most instances this will be the designated Scouter-in-Charge. In instances where older youth are unsupervised (e.g. Venturers) – there must be a designated youth who is suitably experienced.
- The Group Commissioner should satisfy themselves that appropriate supervision has been considered depending on the number of participants, the type of activity, and environmental conditions.
- Winter sports activities embody intrinsic hazards that vary from sport to sport and may require different risk management for the elimination or reduction of risk.
- All participants know, understand, and respect the rules and procedures for the planned safe winter activity. The applicable rules should be presented and learned before the outing, and all participants should review them just before the activity begins.
- Participants are aware of the potential hazards of any winter sport before engaging in it.
- Scouters should emphasize preventing accidents through adherence to safety measures and proper technique.
- Appropriate personal protective equipment is available for all activities. This includes the use of helmets for all participants engaged in winter sports in which there is the potential for an incident that could lead to a serious head injury. The use of helmets is required, by all participants, for the following winter activities: skating, downhill skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing.
- For winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding, that utilize specialized equipment, it is essential that all equipment fit and function properly.
- The Scouter-in-Charge is familiar with the physical circumstances of each youth participant and make appropriate adjustments to the activity or provide protection as warranted by individual health or physical conditions.
- When youth are engaging in downhill activities such as sledding or tobogganing, plans are in place to minimize the likelihood of collision with immobile obstacles.
- Use only designated areas where rocks, tree stumps, and other potential obstacles have been identified and marked, cleared away, shielded, or buffered in some way.
4. Completed and signed Adventure Application Forms (AAF) and required attachments shall be submitted to the Group Commissioner before the adventure takes place.
5. Scouts Canada Adventure Standards apply to all winter-conditions adventures (including but not limited to: snow-shoeing, winter hiking, ice-climbing, skiing, ice-fishing, tobogganing and sledding).
Like all adventures there is a need for planning, but in winter, there are special considerations that need to be considered:
- Competent Supervision. The Scouter in Charge should have sufficient experience (and training where practical and appropriate) in the type of adventure being planned.
- Equipment. Winter conditions present unique gear-selection and menu planning challenges. Special attention must be given to individual and group gear selection. A gear list should be provided to all participants by an experienced Scouter, and a discussion of gear held with all participants prior to the adventure. When sleeping in unheated tents or structures, Scouters should consider inspecting the gear of inexperienced youth. Special attention should be given to menu planning to ensure sufficient calories for cold- and wet-weather conditions. Equipment should be checked to ensure good condition for the activity and proper maintenance while in use. Scouts should be adequately clothed, and camping gear should be a suitable quality and weight.
- Physical Fitness. Scouters and youth should be suitably fit for the activity. Periodic rests while building snow caves and engaging in other strenuous cold-weather activities will help prevent accidents and overheating. A focus on staying hydrated during winter activities is essential.
- Buddy System. All youth should be in a minimum of pairs.
- Planning. Winter offers different challenges – variable weather, snow and ice conditions, cold rain or sleet, water access, fire and survival materials availability, and low temperatures. Activities must follow a plan that has been conscientiously developed, and special attention must be giving to gear and menu selection. Distances traveled in winter significantly vary by mode of transport, prevailing conditions and experience.
- Safe Camping. The site must be assessed to determine whether an area for winter camping is well-suited and free of hazards (not normally present in spring or summer) e.g. Proximity to lake ice, dead overhanging trees, drifting snow, crevasses, avalanche fans etc.
- Weather Readiness. Weather conditions, potential hazards, and the appropriate responses should be understood and anticipated – plan for change. Snow and ice conditions can vary widely with temperature and other conditions. Before engaging in activities such as snow caving or walking onto lake ice a qualified Scouter must test or otherwise verify that conditions are safe for the activity.
- Discipline. Rules are effective only when followed. All participants should know, understand, and respect the rules and procedures for a safe winter camping experience. Applicable rules should be discussed prior to the outing and reviewed for all participants when leaving for the winter campout.
 Adapted after the Boy Scouts of America – National Cold-Weather Camping Development Center at Northern Tier- www.ntier.org. Visit this site for comprehensive winter camping preparation information.