I think we found it. A winter sport that is accessible, adventurous, involves lots of snow, and is relatively inexpensive. I call it trail sledding.
It's probably technically known as (I'm not the technical one in the family so bear with me) backcountry sledding or, according to the Mad River Rocket company, "rocketshoeing". But since we've neither snowshoed up or taken the sleds into the backcountry we're calling it trail sledding.
Whatever it's called, it's fun and that's the whole point. Winter fun, in the snow, all together, and everyone from the 6 year old to the, ahem... 36 year old enjoys it.
Here's what your family needs to enjoy this great winter sport. I'm assuming you already have winter clothing gear - base layer, insulation, weather proof layer, boots, hats, mitts. All the stuff to keep you warm and comfortable.
Sleds: As far as I can see this is the only real cost of this sport. You can't just use any old sleds to wind your way down hiking trails and through the trees. Well I suppose you could try... but most buy-it-at-Walmart sleds or even quality built tobaggans aren't designed to weave through trees and thick powder.
For our family of 5 we started by investing in one Killer B Sled (adult sized) and one Stinger Sled (child sized) from Mad River Rocket.
The cool thing about these sleds is they are made in the USA and are local to New England where we live. This is a product we feel good about buying.
Helmets & Goggles: We don't have these yet since we're still playing it safe on the local hiking trails, sledding hills & nature preserves. But when we get into the "big powder" of the Maine mountains, hopefully next year, we will definitely need to protect those kiddo's noggins.
Hills & Hiking Trails: Ideally, we want to take these babies into the White Mountains of Maine but for now the local hiking trails will do. Maine is a green state of tree covered hills, add winter snow and it's the perfect combination for this sport. No wonder Mad River Rocket started in Vermont.
Any snowy hill will work but the beauty of these sleds is their maneuverability and backcountry ease of use.
Speaking as a nature lover and tree hugger, I'm so happy to be off the usual local sledding hills full of screaming children and into the bare winter trees with 3 feet of powder snow. You can find such terrain in nature preserves, protected lands, city and state parks or other public hiking areas. Of course if you're lacking snow, I can't help you there.
Trail sledding/Backcountry sledding/rocketshoeing depends on good snow - another reason to celebrate winter! But I think it's easier to find good snow off the beaten path because the snow hasn't been so, well... beaten!
No high-price lift tickets or motorized vehicles required, except for maybe your car to get you to the trailhead!