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Policies and Procedures — Consultation

Winter Camping and Outdoor Adventures Standard (DRAFT FOR CONSULTATION)

This document has been reviewed extensively by select Group Commissioners and Scouts Canada staff, but it has not yet been formally approved, and does not yet represent requirements for Scouting adventures.

This is your opportunity to read the document and to provide your feedback—please use the form at the bottom of page, and share your thoughts by August 16. We value your feedback, and we will use your constructive criticisms, questions and ideas to make this resources as clear, sensible and robust as possible. Thank you in advance for your contributions.

Winter Camping and Outdoor Adventures Standard (DRAFT FOR CONSULTATION)


To embrace winter is to be Canadian! We are lucky to have the opportunity to test our skills learned in spring, fall and summer and put them to the ultimate test when it is -20oC or below. 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.

Like all adventures there is a need for planning, but in winter, there are special considerations that need to be considered[1]:

  1. Competent Supervision. The adventure leader should be an experienced winter adventurer with strong character and common sense. 
  2. Equipment. All members must be completely outfitted for cold weather. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. Buddy System. All youth should be in a minimum of pairs.
  5. Planning. Winter offers different challenges – variable weather, snow and ice conditions, water access, fire and survival materials availability, and low temperatures. Activities must follow a plan that has been conscientiously developed. Distances travelled in winter significantly vary by mode of transport, prevailing conditions and experience.
  6. 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.
  7. Weather Readiness. Weather conditions, potential hazards, and the appropriate responses should be understood and anticipated – plan for change.
  8. Camp Fires & Cooking. Never use flames in tents, teepees, or snow shelters. This includes burning any solid, liquid, gel, or gas fuel; using features of tents or teepees that support stoves or fires; and use of chemical-fueled equipment and catalytic heaters. 
  9. 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. 

Our Standards

This standard should be used as an addition / extension to the Camping & Outdoor Adventures standard.

  1. The Group Commissioner and Scouter-in-Charge ensures:
    1. All winter activities must be supervised by a designated Scouter who are experienced and qualified in the particular skills and equipment involved in the activity.
    2. Except when older youth are participating on their own, direct supervision should be maintained at all times by two or more Scouters. The GC should satisfy themselves that the appropriate number of supervisors is considered depending on the number of participants, the type of activity, and environmental conditions. 
    3. Winter sports activities embody intrinsic hazards that vary from sport to sport. All participants should 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.
    4. Participants should be 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. 
    5. Appropriate personal protective equipment is required 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.
    6. The Scouter-in-Charge should be 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.
    7. For winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding etc., that utilize specialized equipment, it is essential that all equipment fit and function properly. 
    8. When youth are engaging in downhill activities such as sledding or tobogganing, 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. 
  2. The Group Commissioner approves all camping and outdoor adventures.
  3. Approved Camping and Outdoor Adventures Applications, and required attachments, shall be submitted before the adventure takes place.

Related Policy(s)

Related Standards and Procedures


[1] Adapted after the Boy Scouts of America – National Cold-Weather Camping Development Center at Northern Tier- Visit this site for comprehensive winter camping preparation information.

Feedback on the Winter Camping and Outdoor Adventures Standard

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