10 Tips for XC Skiing with Kids

13 Tips for Cross Country Skiing with Kids

Winter is just not winter for me unless there’s snow on the ground. Mostly because snow means sledding and cross country skiing downhill skiing and snow forts and all the fun you can do only in colder temperatures.

I have loved cross country skiing for most of my life, and I love seeing my own kids get on their own skis now. Only over the past couple of years, it has gotten a bit easier mostly because more of them can get their own skis on AND make forward motion.

But, it hasn’t always been that way. We have had serious meltdowns on the trail…usually in the middle of a loop, far away from any bail-out points. It’s never pretty.

10 Tips for XC Skiing with Kids

So, while I can’t guarantee any else’s kids being perfectly behaved (much less my own), here are some of my best tips we have learned over the years for more successful family XC ski days.

Cross Country Skiing as a Family: Set your expectations low (really low)

Don’t even hit the trail right away. Start in your backyard or a field or somewhere you can get back to the car quickly if needed. That way you are at least practicing getting skis on, shuffling and have easy access to a warm house if needed.

If you do choose to hit a trail right away, choose one with a parking lot close to the trail. This is especially helpful if you have multiple kids of different ages.

10 Tips for XC Skiing with Kids
Notice how close the parking lot is….

Ditch the poles

While poles are necessary for XC skiing in general, they just get in the way when someone (kid OR adult) is just learning. The key is to learn how to balance on your skis before you add in pole coordination.

To lessen the temptation, leave your own poles at home too if you can (otherwise your little one may not understand why he can’t have poles too).

10 Tips for XC Skiing with Kids

Dress for the weather

Be smart about it. Use layers, and bring extra gear (mittens especially) in case they get wet. Warm kids = happy kids.

Check out our full post here on how to layer and what materials and fabrics we recommend.

10 Tips for XC Skiing with Kids

Wear a Costume

Actually just let them wear whatever they think is fun (over their warm gear, of course). My kids have had more fun in a cape or tutu out on the trail…and they seem to make them go just a tiny bit faster too. Whatever it takes!

Fun local races also boost morale and a desire to be a part of the fun!

Jardine Ski Run

Kick & Chase!

Tell kids to pretend they are kicking a ball to help them get the motion down. If it works for your family, bring an actual ball to let them kick. However, be prepared to be the one chasing it down (and avoid light balls on windy days).

It also helps to have a parent (or adult) ahead to chase and an adult behind to be “pick-up-crew”.

Bring a Harness

While most of the time you see ski harnesses used for downhill skiing, having a handle on your kid is really helpful when you’re both on skis and you have to pick them up 100,000 times.

We recommend this harness or a vest with a handle like this one.

10 Tips for XC Skiing with Kids

Work the Peer Pressure Magic

Bring friends, even if everyone is falling and laughing (that’s key) and not sure what they are doing.

Kids like to chase kids (usually) and we’ve found that always helps. Mom and Dad telling them what to do gets old pretty fast.

10 Tips for XC Skiing with Kids

Bring Snacks

Kids (and adults) burn crazy amounts of calories skiing in the cold. Even if you JUST fed them, bring something you can easily pop in their mouth.

Avoid granola bars that freeze easily, but trail mix is always a hit.

You don’t want hangry kids turning into noodles on skis.

10 Tips for XC Skiing with Kids

Use Bribery

End the day with hot chocolate. Get really crazy and offer marshmallows, too. Use M&Ms or jelly beans or craisins on the trail. Whatever gets them from point A to point B!

We often pack the hot chocolate with us and choose a spot on the trail for a planned stop.

10 Tips for XC Skiing with Kids

Do it Often

Practice makes perfect. Get out once or twice a week — it gets a bit easier every time! Make going XC skiing your normal, something you do on a weekly (or more) basis.

It’s great exercise and a great life-long skill.

10 Tips for XC Skiing with Kids

Pull a Trailer

While so far we have always had kids in the trailer, we’ve found that having the ability to hold on the back of it for kids just learning to ski is invaluable. They’re still having to balance so working on that skill, but sometimes that little boost makes ALL the difference in the world.

Check out our favorite ski trailers here under “multifunctional strollers”.

10 Tips for XC Skiing with Kids

Find Trail Distractions

Choosing trails with cool features to check out or fun hills to go down always seems to go a long way. There’s something up ahead the kids want to get to, and then a good reason to take a break for a photo too.

10 Tips for XC Skiing with Kids

Chill Out

Kids shut down when they see you stressed. Don’t even go there. Pack your own hot toddies if needed.

Cross-country skiing is a great life skill and an easy way to get out and enjoy the winter as a family. As always with kids, it’s one day at a time!

10 Tips for XC Skiing with Kids

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XC Skiing with Kids

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7 thoughts on “13 Tips for Cross Country Skiing with Kids”

  1. Great tips! You never know what to expect…. we’ve had some really great days and some not so great days (yeah… those melt downs when you’re 6k out in the middle of the woods…). I’ve learned to bring a little chocolate with us all the time (for the kids and the hubby!).

  2. I love skiing, my son loves it. My middle daughter hates it. So I’m trying not to pressure her. I pull the baby in a chariot, and try to get my daughter to at least try it. Super hard when we don’t have snow up here. (Come on, Alaska!!) but I just try for about 15 min, we stay close to the car or chalet on local trails and then I have my husband come entertain her when she is done so my son and I can get in some skiing. I’m not giving up on my daughter yet but it is frustrating. All of her close friends do Jr. Nordic and she has no desire whatsoever. She is 5, so I’m hoping as she gets older maybe she will be more into it.

    1. My middle one had absolutely no interest until this year (he’ll be 5 this summer). And you’re right – I think the consistency is the best thing you can do! I had almost forgotten about Jr. Nordic – so wish we had that down here too! Hang in there, Mama! It will pay off… 😉
      (And yes, come ON, Alaska! Where is the good snow?!?!)

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