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Introducing your kids to XC skiing

Cross Country Skiing is a fantastic sport that provides many excellent benefits like being outside and getting exercise. If you are interested in introducing the kids in your family to cross-country skiing but don’t know where to start, we’re hoping this short guide will help. There are several options from signing them up for a formal ptrogam to casual family outings where you all learn together.

In Norway, where cross-country skiing started as a means of transportation and travel, children often learned to ski at the age of 2 or 3. If you have kids around that age, we would recommend using using skis that strap onto your child’s boots (like Madshus Snow Pup’s). These skis are designed to teach kids about having skis attached to their feet while they focus on the skills for balance. Skiing at this stage is mostly about playing games and having fun, and these skis are a fantastic way to include your youngest while the rest of the family plays outside.

Once kids are in boots sized bigger than 25 (and generally around 4 or 5 years old) they can start to transition to more standard types of skis and boots, where the heel is loose and they can begin to learn the gliding technique. With this equipment, kids can focus on learning how to ski more efficiently and enjoy gliding rather than simply walking on skis. We carry a range of both new and used kids skis and boots, to help you enter this sport without breaking the bank.

Bunnies and Jackrabbit Programs are a great way for kids to make friends and learn the technique of cross-country skiing without realizing they are learning. Games and activities are a fundamental part of the teaching strategy to build the skills of balance, weight transfer, pushing off of the snow and gliding. Kids get badges as they progress to celebrate their skill development.

Of course, if you are not interested in signing your kids up to a registered program, then family outings in the snow can be a wonderful learning environment – for example you can find a meadow that is either untracked or stomped down, and start by playing a few games of tag which gets the kids warm and learning to move quickly on their skis. You can also play follow the leader and make a nice straight track through the meadow. Teaching kids how to go up and down short hills here means that they have the skills they need to progress safely. If you are looking for help to get started or develop a specific set of skills, a private lesson for the family can get you all heading in the right direction. Joining up with another family with kids of a similar age can make this more affordable and give your kids more people to play their snow games with.

Once kids have an idea of how to push themselves forwards on skis, stop safely, and are eager for another challenge; spending a day or a morning out on some tracks is an excellent next step. Make sure you choose a trip that is short enough to remain fun, and bring enough warm layers so that everyone is happy and warm all day long. Warming Huts like the Pocaterra Warming Hut, the Peter Lougheed Visitors Center, or the West Bragg Creek Warming Hut are fantastic at breaking up your day.

If you’ve never skied yourself, and want some pointers on where to go, what to wear and bring, and trail etiquette, stop by the store and chat with one of our knowledgeable staff, or come to an Introduction to Cross Country Skiing talk in the evening. 

If you are interested in enrolling your kids in a program, there are lots of great clubs in Calgary with varying levels of commitment. Most clubs start their programs in November although some, like the University of Calgary club, start in January. Most clubs are registered with and follow the program set out by Cross Country Ski Canada. Some of these clubs/organizations include:

All of the above clubs have a Jackrabbits program for ages 6 – 10. Many of them also have both Bunnies programs for kids as young as 4, and other programs for our older children, up to age 19. An added benefit of a more formal program is immersing yourself into the skiing culture in Calgary and meeting other parents and kids who love skiing. Several clubs also put on races and events for you and your kids to work towards and track progress.

Skiing with your kids is a great way to spend time together outside being active, and introducing your kids in a way that makes it fun ensures that you can continue skiing with them for years to come. Remember, the family that plays together stays together!