Equipment for Kids
Cross-country skiing has quickly become a popular winter activity in Fernie. With access to a variety of terrain and trail options, residents and visitors alike are choosing the sport to cross train for their summer pursuits or as a budget-friendly activity to do with the whole family. While the sport can be learned at any age, starting as a kid has its benefits. You don’t need to be a professional, all you need is a desire to spend time outdoors with your kids, some properly fitting gear and a little (or a lot) of patience. While I can’t help you with the latter, this is a starting point for beginning your cross-country skiing journey with your kids.
Adults and children alike find more success if the equipment is suited to their size and level. While ski selection for adults is based primarily on weight, skis for kids are selected based on their height. A beginner skier will find more success on skis that are slightly shorter relative to their height while a more experienced skier may benefit from a longer pair. The recommendation for sizing kids on classic skis is to find their height and add 10 cm to find the proper length of ski. A more experienced skier can add 10-20 cm to their height.
I started my kids on classic skis to develop balance, coordination and strength. I would recommend holding off on skate skis until they have the skills to ski with efficiency on their classic equipment. When they are at an appropriate age and skill level to try out skate skiing, the sizing rules change. They are still based on height, but you’re adding less length. The recommendation for sizing kids that are beginners on skate skis is their height and subtracting 5-10 cm. Yes, you read that right. Skate skis that are too long will be cumbersome, stiff and make it difficult for a child to propel themselves forward. For stronger, more experienced skate skiers, add 5-10 cm to their height.
Before you buy new or used boots for your child, know the binding system on their skis. If you’re buying all new equipment, you will not run into a problem.
Fitting young skiers in boots can be tricky. Toes that are squished into boots become colder faster and will end your cross-country ski adventure very quickly. Boots that are too big and sloppy won’t support little feet and make it difficult to ski proficiently. Think thicker socks to make up for extra room and make sure that boots are laced securely. While we all strive to foster independence in our children, it’s important to check that boots are done up properly.
If your kids are new to cross country skiing, I would forget the poles altogether. Beginner skiers tend to fall frequently, and poles get in the way of returning to their feet. It is common for new skiers to use their poles as a brake to stop or slow themselves down which can lead to broken poles (and black eyes and bloody noses). There is also a temptation to rely on poles for balance and propulsion which prevents skiers from developing skills.
Once your child is ready for poles, getting the right length is important. Poles for classic skiing should end at, or just below the shoulder (in their boots, on their skis with the pole touching the ground/snow.) For skate skiing, poles should reach somewhere between the chin and upper lip.
While the size of boots and the length of skis needs to be upgraded as your child grows, you can buy adjustable poles to maximize use (and minimize spending).
If your kid(s) are signed up for the Skills Development Program through the Fernie Nordic Society, you have the option to rent equipment for the season. If you don’t have that option, I hope this article is a helpful tool as you browse town, online garage sales and ski swaps for the right gear for your kids.