Cross country skiing with your family is a fun, easily accessible and inexpensive winter activity. As a ski instructor, people often ask me “ at what age can my child start xc skiing?” My answer: kids can physically ski anytime after they can walk … but really it depends on how much patience you have.
When you are skiing with very young children I find it’s the parents’ desire and a massive amount of patience that really dictates whether or not skiing with your child is possible.
This may not be the straightforward answer you were looking for, but it really is different for every family. My son was 2.5 his first time on skis. It lasted about 5 to 10 mins and we traveled about 6 feet. But it was fun, and look how cute he is.
As your child gets older, they will get bigger and stronger and will be able to last longer and go further. 4 to 6 is a great age to get out on the trail, but remember every child grows and develops differently so don’t get caught up in ‘age restrictions.’
So you want to embark on your first family xc ski, now what?
What to wear
Most people OVER dress for xc skiing. Remember this is an active sport, you will be moving most of the time.
You want to be comfortable because no one is happy if they are cold or wet. If you live in Canada, your kids are probably already equipped with snowsuits, good mitts, and a toque.
For the adults:
-warms socks (preferably not cotton; the best ski socks contain Merino wool). Get some good ski socks for the kids too, it really makes a difference.
-long johns or warm tights (this is your thermal layer)
-snow pants/rain pants/soft shell pants (this is your waterproof layer that snow will not stick to)
-thermal top (again not cotton), wool or fleece is great
-winter jacket/soft shell jacket
-mitts or gloves
What to pack
Each adult should carry a backpack, if your kids are older they can carry a small pack of their own. Pack water, snacks, a cell phone and first aid kit (just in case). If you did overdress you can put your extra layers in the backpacks.
If you are new to xc skiing you will probably want to rent for the first while. You will need skis, boots, and poles. Our ski package includes all these items for $15/2 hours for children and $20/2 hours for adults. Daily rates are available as well. Don’t worry about what size of equipment you need, the friendly team at Kananaskis Outfitters will sort that all out for you.
Babies and Toddlers
If you’d like to ski with your baby/toddler we also rent “pulks.” Our pulks are Chariot strollers with skis on them instead of wheels. They glide along the snow very nicely and allow you to get out with your family of all ages. (Note: babies must be 1+ years for the pulk)
Where to go
Kananaskis has many options for skiing. There are 3 main areas: The Ribbon Creek Trails (or Kananaskis Village Trails), Peter Lougheed Trails and Mt.Shark Trails. Each of these areas offers machine groomed trails and the most beautiful part … they are free! Machine groomed trails make skiing easier with a smooth consistent surface for your skis to glide on. They also offer tracks which keep your skis going in the direct you want and increase glide. For first-time skiers, I recommend the Terrace Loop or Aspen Loop, near the Kananaskis Village. These 3 km and 6km loops respectively are walking distance from Kananaskis Outfitters so you can rent skis and walk right over to the trailhead. The Terrace Loop is comprised of easy terrain, and if you don’t want to do the full 3 km you can do a shorter out and back.
The Village trails are also great for your first adventure from a safety perspective, they are near to public facilities with heat and bathrooms and within cell coverage. Don’t forget to pick up a copy of the local trail map and know where you are going.
OK, so. You’ve got all the right gear. You are on the trail, skiing along; now what?! Remember to keep it fun, and that children require LOTS of short breaks. Set achievable goals like “when we make it to the junction we’ll have a treat.” Racing each other is fun and keeps everyone moving along. Play I-spy as you move along the trail or point out the shapes the snow-covered trees or clouds make. If everyone is unhappy, change your strategy or go inside for a break and try again a little later. Don’t forget, hot chocolate is always a hit 😉
Lastly, lessons are worth every penny.
Book your family into a xc ski lesson with one of our certified instructors; they will give you lots of tips and tricks to make your outings fun and successful. We hope these tips help get you and your whole family out on the trail. Do you have other games that you play with your kids on the trail? Share them in the comment section!
Ski you later,