Cross-Country Skiing with Kids: Make it Fun!

The first few times I took my son skiing I thought, “Maybe he’s too young? Am I wasting my time? Will he ever like skiing? This is too hard…” I’m pretty sure he felt the same way! Little did I know, cross-country skiing is truly a sport for all-ages, and one that can be fun for parents, kids and even toddlers. This past season we had such enjoyable cross-country ski outings, full of laughter and cheerful memories. We started out slowly with a focus on fun, but the skillset develops quickly. Here are a few tips to make it fun while you introduce the sport to your family.

Stay warm… but not too warm! We found layering key in increasing our child’s comfort. A few layers means children will be warm when it’s cold and they can shed a layer as their body heats up with activity. It may help to have a dry layer for when they’re done playing in the snow, snuggled by the warming hut fire. Along this line, a thermos of warm tea (we like blueberry tea with honey) and a small snack can be invaluable in convincing your kid(s) to stay out and play in the snow with you. The Elk Valley Nordic Centre warming hut is a wonderful place to finish off a family ski date.

Games are the number one incentive to get my kids out on their skis. We play red light green light, Simon Says, and kick ball. A small beach ball works great for encouraging balance by scootering around with one foot free from a ski. There’s no need for poles when your kids are little, as it takes more coordination so skis only are recommended to get started. It’s important to learn to get up easily on skis, especially when starting out, so to limit frustration we even make falling and getting back up again into a game… to the point where they would be falling on purpose during our ski (something to work on!). 

If you’re looking to have a trained coach guide your child through the progression of cross-country skiing (or you’re keen for some kid-free ski time yourself!), consider signing your kids up for cross-country ski lessons! Canada has a nation-wide cross-country ski program for children that is offered right here in Fernie. For children five years of age and younger, the Fernie Nordic Society offers a Bunnyrabbit Program and for children six to nine, the Jackrabbit Program offers more challenging skills to older children. For kids ready to explore the competitive side of cross-country skiing, FNS offers Track Attack and the Fernie Nordic Racers program. These lessons are a fun and low-pressure way for young children to practice their skills with other youth and with a coach. To find out more about lessons visit the Fernie Nordic Society website.

Ski with your kids…in suitable terrain and in suitable weather. Don’t expect them to have fun on an icy, chunky day, I mean would you? Small gentle hills and interesting terrain can be the difference between smiles and giggles and tears with frustration. Try to wear your skis while they’re wearing theirs; it will make more sense for them and they will start to mimic you, their most sincere form of flattery.

Manage your expectations. Most of us cross-country ski for the exercise, fresh air and opportunity to be moving outside in the winter. For your kids it’s much the same except boot top snow is knee or thigh high on them, and the amount of exercise they’re getting is proportional to that visual. When your kid(s) are done, they are DONE! Let it go and do more another day.

Stay warm, have FUN and get out there as often as you can!

Madeleine Bragg is a momma of two wee ones who is passionate about the outdoors, whether on skis or bike. She is also the Administrator for the Fernie Nordic Society.