Keeping it Fun
Fernie is a mountain playground with no shortage of activities to get us through winter. With an abundance of options comes competition with other amazing sports. My kids enjoy alpine skiing and snowboarding, but we also try to make time to Nordic ski as a family. While we never struggle to get the boys up to the ski hill, cross-country skiing is another story. Over the years I have tried different tricks and methods to get my kids on board with a Nordic outing instead of dragging them to the trailhead against their will. These aren’t always perfect, but I never regret putting in the effort to get out there.
When we’re heading out the door adventuring, I make sure to bring food. Motivating kids to sweat and bust their lungs in nature in cold temperatures requires something more than the usual fare. I have been known to pick up a pastry or two from House of Gato or Le Bon Pain to entice those with a sweet tooth into skiing for an edible reward. There is also no shame in grabbing a bag of candy on your way to trailhead - a gummy stop every couple of kilometres or at trail intersections goes over well with my kids. Treats can also be savoury or a mix of both - get creative with snacks that are exciting because they don’t have them every day. Just don’t forget the hot chocolate.
Ski in the Dark
The shorter days mean we can’t always get exercise in daylight, so it’s best not to be afraid of the dark if being outdoors as a family is important to you. If skiing on skinny skis in the daylight already terrifies you, this may not be your thing, but I guarantee the kids will love it! It’s as simple as donning headlamps, slightly warmer clothes and heading to the trail. Try to choose an area you are familiar and comfortable with to eliminate surprises. I know families that make an annual outing of skiing from the Elk Valley Nordic Centre to Fernie Alpine Resort for dinner. Don’t have headlamps? Head out on a clear night under a full moon or watch for the nights that the Fernie Nordic Society lights up the trail through the woods at the Nordic Centre - the latter is perfect, and pretty magical, for younger children.
Set a Goal
January is typically the month of goal setting, so why not set a family cross-country skiing goal? Sign your family up for the Elk Valley Streak and make a few days of your 30 minutes of exercise Nordic-focused! You can also set a distance goal, plan a trip to a cross-country skiing destination somewhere other than Fernie, or ski a longer trail in the Elk Valley the kids have never done before. For years my family planned to ski the Boivin Creek Trail in Elkford, and we finally made it happen last season. The route is a 14km round trip to the Wildcat Hut, but there are many picturesque places to rest, snack and take in the views - including the closer Boivin Hut which could be your turn-around point if the full distance seems daunting. The trip out is mostly a gentle uphill which makes for a pretty fun descent for everyone on the way back. Make sure you leave a donation at the trailhead for the Elkford Nordic Ski Club who do a great job of maintaining this beautiful trail.
Sometimes you won’t make it far. Often our cross-country skiing adventures are not considered adventures at all since we barely make it much farther than the parking lot. Regardless of what it looks like, how far you get, how many times they whined, how many times you whined, it’s always some skills gained, some fresh air and exercise had and, most importantly, memories made.