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Cross Country Skiing with Kids

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.

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 we took some adorable photos to send to Grandma and Grandpa.

“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.” 

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’re ready to embark on your first family xc ski, now what?

What To Wear

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.

Most people OVER dress for xc skiing. Remember this is an active sport, you will be moving most of the time.

  • 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/softshell pants (this is your waterproof layer that snow will not stick to)

  • thermal top (again not cotton), wool or fleece is great

  • winter jacket or softshell jacket

  • mitts or gloves and a toque (hat)

What to Pack

  • Each adult should carry a backpack, if your kids are older they can carry a small pack of their own.

  • Water and Snacks.

  • First Aid kit and cell phone, to use in case of emergencies and to get those cute photos. 

  • If you did overdress you can put your extra layers in your backpack as you go.

Ski Gear

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 $25/2 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 atop the snow very nicely and allow you to get out with your family of all ages. (Note: babies should 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. Machine groomed trails make skiing easier with a smooth consistent surface for your skis to glide on. They also offer tracks that keep your skis going in the direction 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 😉

Finally, lessons are worth every penny!

Book your family into an 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. 

Ski you later,

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  • Address:

    1-279 Mt. Sparrowhawk Crescent,
    Kananaskis, AB, T0L 2H0

  • Current hours of operation :

    9:00AM - 5:00PM SUN-THUR

    9:00AM - 6:00PM FRI-SAT

In the spirit of reconciliation, we acknowledge that we live, work and play on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina, the Îyâxe Nakoda Nations, the Métis Nation (Region 3), and all people who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is your cancellation policy?

Cancellations or changes made to bookings more than 72 hours away: We will fully refund your purchase, less a $10 admin fee, onto the card that was used for payment. You can cancel your booking by calling 403-591-7000 or emailing info[at]kananaskisoutfitters.com . Please allow 3-5 business days for the refund to process.

Cancellations made 71- 12 hours of start time: No refunds will be provided, but we will provide a 50% credit to use towards a future booking. You can cancel your booking by calling 403-591-7000 or emailing info@kananaskisoutfitters.com

No shows: A booking is considered a no-show if we aren't notified about a booking cancellation at least 12 hours prior to the start of the booking. Arrive on time, as departures will be leaving on schedule. No refunds or credit will be given for no shows or late arrivals.

Should I tip my guide?

If you enjoyed your experience and would like to show your appreciation, our guides will be grateful.

Do I need a reservation?
While reservations are not necessary all the time, we do advise making them as we frequently book all of our gear out in a day. With a reservation, you will know that your gear is here waiting for you. Payment is taken in full when the reservation is made.
How do I rent gear?
Come into the shop and fill out waiver; we will then take a credit card imprint (Visa and Mastercard accepted) as a damage deposit until you return with the gear, at which point we will check it over and then you may pay for your rental with credit, debit or cash.
Do I need bear spray?
If you are going to be hiking, walking, biking, running, camping, or pretty much anything else outside in Kananaskis, you should definitely carry bear spray. We do. It's more effective than a gun, and doesn’t require a special permit to carry.
What kind of tours do you offer?
We offer hiking, mountain biking, stargazing, snowshoeing, canoeing (and voyageur canoeing) tours as well as XC ski and stand up paddleboard lessons.
Can I book a private tour?
Any of our activities can be booked for a private group. Click here for more information.
What if I have a big group?
We regularly host large corporate or family groups; we can book individual activities for you or we can plan out a full day or multi-day adventure. Click here for more information, or give us a call: +1-403-591-7000.
Are there trails near you?
On foot, you can access mountain biking, hiking, XC skiing and snowshoe trails from our shop (season dependant). If you want to drive, then the options in Kananaskis are endless.
How do I rent a canoe/kayak/SUP?
During peak Summer season, we offer lakeside rentals at Barrier Lake. Hourly rates are in effect when a staff memer is present. During this time boats can not be reserved they are rented on a first come first served basis.

During quieter times, the boats will still be located at Barrier Lake, however you will need to come to the shop to fill out waivers and pick up the safety gear. Gear will also need to be returned to the shop when you are finished. For self serve boat rentals, full day rental rates apply and reservations are possible.

Paddles, PFDs and safety kit are included in the rental rate. Should you need to transport a boat, tie down kits are also available.
Do you rent downhill or touring equipment?
No, sorry we just rent XC skis.

Nakiska is a great place to rent downhill ski stuff. Go to Gear Up in Canmore or MEC in Calgary for touring gear.
Can we take the gear that we rent somewhere else?
Yes, you may transport the gear elsewhere as long as you can do so safely. We have tie down kits available for boats. Ask about our multi-day prices.
When do you sell off your used rental gear?
At the end of every season, we sell off select gear. So in the Fall, we sell off bicycles, in the Spring we sell off fat bikes, XC skis, and snowshoes, etc. Want to know all the details and get notified when the sale is happening? Join our email list. Sign up on our home page.
Where can I buy groceries, firewood, propane, etc.?
Some groceries and camping supplies can be bought at the Mt. Kidd Campers Centre, or at Fortress Gas Station. Hours are seasonal, call before you go.
Where is the closest gas station/liquor?
Fortress Gas Station (20 km south on Highway 40) is the closest place for gas and liquor/beer, although offsale beer is also available at Woody’s Pub at the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis.
Are there lakes near you?
Yes; Barrier Lake is about a 15 minute drive north on Hwy 40 and is where we keep our boats for summer rental. There is also Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lake a 40 minute drive South on Highway 40 in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.
Can I bring my dog?
Dogs must be on a leash at all times in Kananaskis; dogs are allowed on all trails except groomed cross country ski trails. If you are confident paddling with your dog you are welcome to do so at your own risk.

Dogs can be brought on tours only it all of the other participants on the tour are agreeable. We can not determine this until right before the tour departs.
What is the meaning of life?
We’re still trying to figure that out, but Kananaskis is a great place to look for it. No wait…it's 42.