There’s now a fourth way to earn the Snow Sports merit badge

snow sports merit badge

Put on a heavy coat and head to the nearest patch of fresh powder.

As of Jan. 1, 2016, there’s now a fourth way to earn the Snow Sports merit badge. Snowshoeing joins downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and snowboarding as options for earning this elective merit badge.

The new requirements, which you can see here, took effect on Jan. 1, 2016. Scouts who started work on the Snow Sports merit badge before Jan. 1, 2016, may continue working using the previous requirements.

The update to the Snow Sports merit badge is indicative of the BSA’s commitment to improving its crop of 136 existing merit badges. I’ve already blogged about the changes to the Eagle-required Cooking merit badge for 2016 and beyond.

In future posts I’ll blog about changes to the Photography merit badge and the Lifesaving merit badge, but you can see those new requirements right now right here.

How to earn the Snow Sports merit badge

After completing the first six requirements, Scouts complete requirement 7 on snowshoes, skis or snowboards. For snowshoeing, they must complete all of these requirements:

(a) Name the parts of a snowshoe.

(b) Explain how to choose the correct size of snowshoe.

(c) Describe the different types of snowshoes and their specialized uses. Discuss factors to consider when choosing a snowshoe.

(d) Explain how to properly care for and maintain snowshoes.

(e) Describe how to make an emergency snowshoe.

(f) Describe areas that are best for snowshoeing. Discuss some advantages and dangers of backcountry snowshoeing.

(g) Discuss the benefits of snowshoeing.

(h) Demonstrate the most efficient ways to break trail, climb uphill, travel downhill and traverse a slope.

(i) Take a two-mile snowshoe hike with a buddy or your troop.

(j) Demonstrate your ability, on a hike, to cope with an average variety of snow conditions.


  1. “As of Jan. 1, 2016…” So 41 days ago? Why are you just announcing this now? BSA should have promoted this prior to January 1st, not over a month after the fact! It seems (yet again) like one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing. Come on BSA, get it together!

    • Jason, this blog (along with ScoutingWire) is an official channel of the BSA to communicate changes and program updates.

      The fact that changes happen and are only announced after the fact is frustrating. What’s the point of allowing Scouts to earn the snowshoe option in January if no Scout (or merit badge councilor) knew it was even an option until February?

      The fact that the BSA website is still out of date on many things is also frustrating. Outdated info is still floating around out there on the official site. It causes confusion, it looks sloppy and it makes the “current” information harder to disseminate.

      Communication of program changes and policy changes is important. I’m not blaming Bryan here (he probably posted the news as soon as he found out)… but why wasn’t he (and all of us) clued in to the change prior to Jan 1st…or, at the very least, on Jan 1st?

      I love that this site brings timely, relevant info to all of us in the BSA community…. but this post wasn’t timely… it was 41 days after the fact…. so it’s frustrating to see dated or old news because someone in the organization dropped the ball on communicating what’s going on.

  2. Your link is wrong. has a revised link for the current requirements under the snow sports merit badge icon. It’s great to have snow shoeing as an option. Thanks Bryan for helping to keep us up to date.

    • sorry to “me, too!”, but: me, too! to the complainers: why didn’t YOU read everything, announce changes to the world etc? gimmee a very large break…. Bryan we love your blog, of course everyone would love ANY info thats newer than older but I find your posts to be very very useful!

      • No one should have to “read everything” in order to find out about changes. The group that made these changes should have sent out a memo saying that this awesome new option will exists starting on Jan 1. Bryan should have gotten that memo and then he could have posted about it prior to the change happen (rather than a month later).

        I love this blog too, and I don’t fault Bryan when old news is posted (I doubt he was just sitting on this info for 40 days). I fault the people how make changes and announce them after the fact. It’s frustrating when changes happen but the people responsible for making them don’t let the people affected know they’ve been made until long after the fact.

  3. Wow! Two miles in snow deep enough to really show the benefits of snow shoeing (over “post hole-ing”) is a really LOOOONG hike.

  4. As a downhill skier, I’m not really excited to see this change. I think it would have made more sense to have this as an optional hike in hiking MB than try and shoehorn it into this badge.

    • As a downhill skier, are you also opposed to cross-country skiing and snowboarding being options? It’s Snowsports Merit Badge… not Downhill Skiing Merit Badge. Why shouldn’t snowshoeing be included as an option?

  5. Two miles may be too short compared to the alpine and cross country requirements, however it is a sport.

    The physical doing requirements should be equal. It takes about three lessoned days for the scouts on the alpine scouts to gain proficiency demonstrate the skills required. It should take three outings worth of effort to earn the snowshoeing component as well.

  6. As a snowshoer, I’m super-excited to see this change. I think it would have made more
    sense to have done this years ago -was it 1999 that it replaced Skiing merit badge?-
    or make it’s own Snowshoeing merit badge today,
    than try and shoehorn it into this badge.

    Being a transplant to California from snowy places in the US where snow sports can be free,
    here it is commonly thought that snow sports are an expensive luxury,
    and snowshoeing is much less expensive.

    The “skiing sports” purchased at resort areas can give a distorted view of winter-
    as Aron Ralston reveals in his book, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”.
    Such predicaments he had trying to climb the Grand Teton fresh out of college!

    But a missing merit-badge link between hiking/backpacking and mountaineering is restored!

    Next challenge- create a Scouting link to Winter Olympic style Biathlon!

  7. As a snowshoer and merit badge counselor, I was excited to see this option added. Imagine my disappointment when I received my Snow Sports merit pamphlet from my Council office and it was the 2015 printing, without snow shoes. The Council office called National, National said that is the latest version and there is an “insert” that can be added stating the new requirements. Heck, I can go to to get the requirements. There is $5 wasted. I guess I’ll just continue with web searching and skip the pamphlets completely.

    • I just looked on, it didn’t look like a new “Snowshoe option” printing had
      happened yet. Still says,”Requirements are provided for downhill (Alpine) skiing,
      cross-country (Nordic) skiing and snowboarding” has had the new requirements since Feb 2016,
      sez the last pamphlet rev was 2014, and
      has a workbook with 2 flavors of snowshoe picture: one “traditional”, with no binding (!),
      and one “modern”, with a binding that seems to require a special mountaineering-boot-heel
      -perhaps a bit too modern?

      > an “insert” that can be added stating the new requirements.
      Did you get the insert? Might it have a bit-of-a-pamphlet attached to it?
      I always figured the people that came up with new MB requirements also
      rev-ed the pamphlet, but not in this case, I guess.

      Now that I think about it, the delay is probably due to whatever committee that
      has to re-write the pamphlet is pulling-their-hair-out trying to make room in the
      100 page limit -ever notice how every merit badge pamphlet is 100 pages -including cover?

      Last winter, to give my students something to read, I looked over some snowshoeing books that they could buy instead of the $5 pamphlet-
      and I found a bunch for $0.01 plus $3.99 shipping on several used-book sites!
      But I never found a one that covered “fractures” (Req. 1b)-
      it just doesn’t happen often while snowshoeing!

      I settled on the 5th Edition of “Snowshoeing” by Gene Prater, edited by Dave Felkley,
      (c) 2002 by The Mountaineers Books.
      It’s 200+ pages, and has way too much history- but then,
      Gene Prater was one of the developers of the “modern” snowshoe!
      I wound up underlining the “good” parts, and loaned that copy to each student to read.

      Perhaps I can write a snowshoe-option-pamphlet-extension and at least claim some
      bragging rights. I doubt that the pamphlet authors get any portion of the $5 price-
      this is a non-profit organization, after all!

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