Martinsville, Virginia


December Discoveries: Snow-Yaking

This story is the first in a series of posts called "December Snow Day on the Smith River Discoveries". Through the eyes of our staff and a few guest bloggers, the posts will shed light on fun activities to enjoy, new exhibits to experience and the interesting stories behind some of our local businesses. Whether you are discovering these attractions for the first time or rediscovering an old favorite, we hope that you enjoy the series.

Our guest blogger today is Brian Williams, owner of Smith River Outfitters and a paddling enthusiast 

When you love to paddle as much as we do, you will find a way to get to the river, no matter the season or the weather. Now winter conditions, much less snow, don't really lend themselves to a lot of river activities. However, we do occasionally get those winters here in Southern Virginia that bring in heavy skies burdened with moisture and temperatures just right for a veritable snowflake convention.

When that happens, we're excited to get to the Smith River and enjoy a completely different experience, paddling through the quiet beauty of the newly blanketed landscape. But sometimes, the snowplow can't get the roads cleared for a couple of days, and when that happens, well...let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!


Forget the skis, the sleds, the snow shoes and snow disk...grab your favorite river's time for "Snow-Yaking!" Just about any kayak will do, even your old canoe. Find a good hill with plenty of room, and preferably no trees. Don't forget your helmet and paddle. Now you are ready to bring a whole new level to the world of downhill fun!

First, the snow should be deep enough so your boat doesn't scrape the ground and rocks and limbs could gouge your expensive plastic. If you happen to be lucky enough to borrow a neighbor's hill or a golf course, you don't want to be plowing a furrow that's going to be hard to explain when the ice finally melts. Just use some common sense and respect the environment and the downhill course you choose to snow-yak on.

It takes a little getting used to when learning how to maneuver a river runner on a slippery, snow-covered hill, but once you get the hang of it, it's a blast! What a rush when you find a wide open hill with just the right slope. It's going to feel like you can't control the boat at first but just use your hips and balance, much like you would on a class II rapid. You can even use your paddle to brace and brake and help with some steering. It's not a new sport, but it's not something you see every day on a snowy hill in Southern Virginia, either.

If you think canoeing and kayaking are summer sports, think Snow Day on the Smith River again. Once the roads clear and you have worn out the hills around your house, load those boats and head to the river. Dress appropriately in wicking layers of fleece and polypro and the right protection with kayak skirts and PFDs and you'll be amazed at a very different world of wintertime paddling. Don't let cold weather or snow stop you from enjoying your kayaks. When the flakes start falling, get out on your local hill for a wild Snow-Yaking experience.

Remember to keep safety first. Never sled or snow-yak on any road, never pull any sled, kayak or other snow toy behind a vehicle, and always respect private property. So next time we get a few inches of snow, knock the cobwebs off that plastic hanging in the garage and get out there to bust a move on a river of white powder!

You'll Love the Pace!