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The Brave Ski Mom - XC Skiing with the family


It's not every day that one arrives at a remote trail head in a remote part of Colorado to find thirty kids wearing identical cross-country ski kits, excited to hit the trail with their coaches.

But that’s exactly what we found one morning near our home.

And, while we were excited to see so many kids on the Nordic trails, we were also shocked.

Despite a long history in North America, interest and participation in cross-country skiing pales in comparison to interest and participation in downhill skiing.

While many children can name skiing superstars like Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Schiffrin or Ted Ligety, most of us (myself included) struggle to name a single Nordic skiing competitor.

Still, interest in cross-country skiing is on the rise, with an increasing number of children and families spending their weekends together on skinny skis.

A Growing Sport

To understand what's happening with youth Nordic skiing, I followed up with August Teague, the director the Aspen Valley Ski Club Nordic program - the group we'd seen training.

A former AVSC athlete, Teague was one of 4 or 5 teens in the Club skiing Nordic twenty years ago. This year, AVSC has 300 young cross-country athletes.

Teague credits the growth in Nordic skiing to several factors.

First, cross-country skiing is now “cool”. When kids see other kids having fun on Nordic skis, they are more likely to give it a try.

Second, the fitness benefits of Nordic skiing are appealing. It’s a fun way to get outside and exercise the middle of winter.

Third, cross-country skiing is more affordable than downhill skiing. The equipment costs less to buy or rent. Cross-country skiing requires less specialized clothing and trail passes are usually inexpensive or free.

Fourth, the quality of coaching has increased. Lessons for children are common and competitive clubs have skilled coaches who know how to work with kids.

Teague has coached at every level, including four years with the Australian Ski Team.

When I asked him for his “best” tip for getting kids out on the cross-country trail, he replied “Make sure your kids are smiling.”

Because if they aren’t smiling, they aren’t having fun.

Getting Started

While having fun is truly the most important tip anyone can give you, here are seven more to help you and your family enjoy Nordic skiing.

1. Pick your place. You can cross-country ski almost anywhere it snows. You don’t need a resort or groomed trail system. If you have access to a snowy park or public lands, you can cross-country ski.

That said, groomed trail systems have advantages. You don’t have to break trail, groomed track is easier to ski and trail maps provide distances so you don’t take on more than your family can handle.

2. Take lessons. While cross-country skiing is easy to pick up, lessons are important and fun. Whether you’re trying classic cross-country or skate skiing, find lessons through local parks departments, ski clubs and trail systems.

3. Gear up. When you’re just starting out, it makes sense to rent gear. A rental shop will help you choose the right size skis, boots and poles. When you’re ready to buy, check for second-hand gear online or in stores. Even new gear will cost much less than downhill ski equipment. And while purists may shudder, we prefer easy-to-use waxless skis.

4. Dress in layers. You’ll get warm cross-country skiing, even on very cold days. This makes layering essential. Choose wool or polypropylene long underwear, thin ski socks, water and wind-resistant pants, a sweater or fleece, a lightweight jacket, gloves, a beanie and sunglasses. If you’re going off trail, don’t forget gaiters to keep the snow out of your boots.

5. Take snacks and water. Pack some snacks and water for everyone. Plan on eating and drinking at least once an hour.

6. Short and sweet. Don’t be too ambitious your first time out. Choose a short loop or trail and let your kids set the pace. If they finish the loop and want to go further, pick another short trail. Over time, you’ll get a better understanding of how long each trail is and how tired your kids will get. Set reasonable expectations, keep the emphasis on fun and finish your ski before anyone is exhausted.

Remember, while adults may be counting kilometers, kids are more likely to be focused on adventure. Choose trails with big views, wildlife, or hills for sliding.

7. Bring a sled. Sometimes a day of family cross-country skiing is less about skiing and more about playing in snow. Before or after your ski, take time to sled down a hill. Bring snow boots and stomp around together, creating designs with your bootprints. Look for animal tracks. Drink hot chocolate, throw snowballs and enjoy this time together.

Most of all, make sure everyone is smiling!


Hailing from Colorado (USA) Kristen Lummis, or as she is better known, the Brave Ski Mom, is an avid skier and true family mum in every sense of the word. www.thebraveskimom.com

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