Cross Country Skiing for Kids

    We do a lot of different kinds of skiing in our family.

    Cross country in the backcountry is my favorite.  I love the workout, the peace, the silence (well, usually anyway…), and the fact that the hills are a bit more of just that: hills (not mountains!)  Mtn Papa is the one more into the Backcountry alpine skiing (hiking up with skis on for traction and then skiing down) but it is certainly growing on me.

    Lately, J has been going with Daddy every chance he gets to practice downhill (AKA Alpine skiing.)  Now we are trying to convince him that cross country is fun too!

    Let me first be clear that this is our first time trying to teach a kid to ski.  Poor “Guinea Pig”, J!  We are certainly not experts, but it is always nice to hear what others have done!

    What worked this time:
    – We stayed positive: lots of encouragement, singing, and talking about how fun it was.
    – No poles (they are just a distraction he would drag along anyway at this stage.)
    – Mama skied in front, Daddy behind.  Daddy was the “pick-up crew” (as in, pick J up when he fell) and I made the tracks he could follow in.
    – Since we didn’t have any other kids with us (besides P in the Chariot) we talked about how other kids had done what he was doing (and named his friends.  And no, we were not making it up. :))
    – We told him to pretend like he was kicking a ball to help him lift his skis just a little.
    – We played a game where he would chase me (and I would pretend like I didn’t want him to catch me) in small spurts.  That made a little goal for himself that he could reach (and he did a lot of laughing to go along with it!)
    – We made falling no big deal.  To the point that he started to fall on his own for fun….(we’ll have to tweak that a little…)

    What we will try next time:
    – A ski harness on J with a handle would have been really nice.  We have one coming from Lucky Bums. Will keep you updated on that!
    – Set a destination where we are planning on stopping, making a fire and having at least a snack.
    – Avoid expecting J to ski right before nap time!
    – Bring another family with kids – gotta love some positive peer pressure!
    – Renting/buying real skis and boots.  We just had the super cheap kind that you strap in their snow boots.  The picture below was trying to get the boot/ski back ON after it fell off!  It wasn’t a huge deal, but a little more support would have been nice for him.

    Anyone have any great tips/stories/experiences for XC skiing with a toddler?  We’d love to hear!


      1. Love the tag idea. Totally going to copy that one.Agree – strap on skis – pain in the a$$ to put on but that’s all we have too.Am also looking for other friends to go out with. To date though, our friends either do alpine resort skiing or else their kids are too young to ski with Noah. :(I’m really hoping I can find some great destinations where we could ski a couple km, have lunch, light a fire, play, and ski back. Hard to find. Also need flat trails for now I think. Next year I’m hoping we’ll have much more success when our son is 3 going on 4. I’ve seen lots of families here skiing with little ones and the secret seems to be bringing a sled along and letting the child ski for a little bit, ride for a bit, ski for a bit… and I’ve seen lots of parents doing the bigger hills with the kid between their legs. Possible if you are snow plowing. One thing that’s working for us is skating. By practicing the weight transfer skill on skates, it teaches the child to do the same thing on skis.

      2. Jake Summers says:

        Ours has been skiing for almost two seasons now and we’ve been all about the slow transformation. We started- as most do- with the chariot, then we progressed to snow shoeing part time then full time, to where she asked to ski, then we went part time ski part time shoe. Now it’s all ski and a lot of whine- but she’s always had fun if you ask her later. We’ve found that groomed trails are best for learning- and since we have to drive to ski anyway, we make a point of stopping in either Pinedale (where we can ski WITH the dogs) or South Pass (-sans dogs). Falling and getting up are better there. We also refused to go with the strap on skis and rent by the season. After nine trips it’s cheaper for us than your local store by the day, and we’re not left with boots and skis that are too small. The gear we rented for her is better quality than the gear I use.We go as a family, but we also make arrangements to go as adults because 1) we can, 2) we enjoy the intensity, 3) it gives her something to look forward to as she gets better.We also talk a lot about Bi-athalon and plan to get her shooting and skiing by next season. She likes the idea so far.

      3. we do alot of the things mentioned in your post and the replies. the chariot is pretty key for the littlest one– our three year old rides more than she skis most of the time. the five year is now to the point where she has no interest in riding and would rather ski on her own. for the littlest one, we’ve found the plastic skis to be just fine. they are light and wider than a normal xs kids ski and you don’t have to keep buying or renting boots as their feet grow like crazy! after 3 or 4 though, we definitely prefer real skis (we usually still rent boots for the same reason– feet grow so fast!). once they can reliably ski on their own for more than a few minutes, i think they get alot out of good quality skis that make learning to ski easier and more fun. skiing in a track is really, really convenient in the learning stages, in my opinion. as it takes the lateral movement out and they can get the hang of balance, shuffling, and eventually kicking and gliding without their skis slipping to the sides. as for motivation… that’s a little harder sometimes! the power of distraction (be it tag, or eye spy, or getting lost in storytelling) is always a great tool. once they’ve lost track of each step and look back to see how far they’ve come, their pride helps motivate them even more. honestly though, for my kiddos, they just have to do it enough times that they start to enjoy it for themselves. no matter how much distraction and convincing we try can replace their learning to do something well enough to enjoy it. once that happens, it’s magic for all involved 🙂

      4. Awesome feedback everyone! Thank you for your tips!


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