Destinations Magazine

The Evolution of Winter Sports on the Boston Common

By Fopg @fopg

Help BostonPublic GardenWith all of the snow we’ve been getting, some have been crying for help! But others have taken this opportunity to enjoy some of their favorite winter sports on the Boston Common, especially children who just enjoyed a full week away from school. A recent article in the Boston Globe compared winter activities then and now and found that the children of today enjoy many of the same activities as children from 80 years ago. The equipment may be different, but the spirit is the same. We’d like to take a moment to review all of our favorite winter sports. Speaking of winter sports, don’t forget to grab your tickets to join Young Friends of the Public Garden at the Frog Pond tonight for an evening of skating and fun all in support of your favorite Boston parks! Tickets available here.

Winter Sports Review

Snow shoeing is one of Boston’s oldest winter sports, dating back to the 18th and 19th century when hunters and lumberjacks would don this unusual footwear. Before them Native American’s had designed perhaps some of the most efficient snow shoes. Eventually snow showing became a leisure activity and snow shoes were worn for sport. The young ladies pictured below seem to be having a good time, but they probably won’t get very far like that!

Photo credit: Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection

Photo credit: Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection

Other winter sports tend to be a little more faced paced. Skating requires a smooth surface for sliding across while sledding, skiing and snowboarding tend to be downhill (the exception being cross country skiing, which is much more like snow shoeing).

Ice skating then...

Ice skating then…

...and now

…and now


Anytime there’s snow you’re sure to find children sledding in the Boston Common. That hasn’t changed much in the last 80 or so years.

sledding boston common

Sledding then…

...and now

…and now


Skiing became popularized in the Boston area in the early 1920′s with the rise of the Arlberg Technique. Rumor has it that one ski enthusiast, Otto Schniebs, who later became a legendary ski instructor, first gained notoriety when he skied across the Boston Common, causing a traffic jam that required law enforcement to respond. These ladies don’t seem like they plan to cause much of stir in their winter gear.


We don’t see much skiing in the Boston Common these days, but we sure do see plenty of snowboarding. When snow falls snowboarders flock to the Common to build jumps and try to catch some air. We don’t recommend trying these stunts yourself!

Snow Boarding Boston Common 2

If none of these winter sports are for you, there’s always a good old fashioned snow ball fight. That’s something that hasn’t changed much over time. 

snow balls
Snow Ball Fight Boston Common

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