Northern Wilds

Page 10


NORTHERN WILDS February-March 2012

Cross-Country Kids How to get ‘em hooked young Story and photos by Eric Chandler

You want to take your kids cross-country skiing? Great! I have skiing kids of my own, so, naturally, I’m an expert. (Okay, my wife is. I just load skis into the truck.) Here is some field-tested advice on gear, trails, and creating good times for the rug rats. EQUIPMENT Kids should learn how to ski in the classical technique. Early in the game, waxless classical skis are the hassle-free way to go. Very young beginners will do fine with skis that just strap to any old pair of winter boots. If you buy a ski/boot/binding package, the most important part is the boots. They need to fit snugly so the young wearer can control his or her skis, but not so tight that they cause cold feet. Work with your local ski shop to fit equipment properly. About poles, I will say four words: Leave them at home. The first couple winters a kid goes skiing, poles are a distraction. The kid will learn more without them. One last note about gear: Make sure children are dressed in layers. Kids cool off and overheat quicker than adults do because of their smaller mass. Check them often and adjust as necessary.

The Chandlers make skiing a family activity. Both Chandler children have been skiing—and posing adorably for photos—almost since they could walk.

T R AILS Choose trails carefully. You can make an easy trail hard, but you can’t make a hard trail easy. The main thing to remember is not to bite off more than you and the kids can chew. A short loop trail with a place to warm up is a sure winner. So you’ve got your kids geared up at a trail. Make the transition from the car to skis as quick as possible. Kids’ attention spans are short. I like a short drive to the trailhead, with ski boots already on and the obligatory bathroom visit completed first. I leap out and lay out everybody’s skis on the snow for them. We get the kids right from the car onto the skis and get moving! Without this “surgical strike” mentality, you can flail around for an hour before your first stride.